Grants would fund fluoridation

Redding city manager thinks issue should go before voters

Scott Mobley
June 30, 2002

Water fluoridation is doable in Redding and grants will cover nearly all of the equipment's $1.9 million price tag, a long-awaited engineering report concludes.
Ratepayers would shell out $1.08 more a month to pay for the cavity-fighting chemical — about half initial estimates.

Armed with that information, however, the City Council on Tuesday shouldn't rule on whether to go ahead with the program four of five members endorsed 10 months ago, City Manager Mike Warren said in a report to the council. They should let voters decide in November.

Warren will recommend the council throw a proposed Safe Drinking Water ordinance banning chemicals like fluoride to an election, rather than adopting it on the spot or ordering a full-blown report on the measure.

The Safe Drinking Water law would forbid the city water utility from adding chemicals whose health claims lack federal Food and Drug Administration approval.

Citizens for Safe Drinking Water gathered 4,270 valid signatures supporting the measure — more than enough to qualify the proposal for council adoption or a general election, Shasta County Clerk Ann Reed determined earlier this month. Connie Strohmayer, Redding's city clerk, will bring the measure to the council Tuesday.

An election "will provide a good opportunity for the community to have a dialogue/debate on the pros and cons of fluoridation," Warren said in his report to the council, adding the discussion can now include costs.

Start-up costs are about twice earlier estimates, the report shows. These include hydrofluosilicic acid injectors for the city's two treatment plants and 14 wells ($1.4 million), concrete buildings or additions to house the tanks and pumps at the plants and the wells ($246,302), a truck to haul the chemical ($38,000) and an improved communication systems at the wells and plants ($155,000).

A California Dental Association Foundation grant would cover $1.6 million of these fluoridation equipment costs if voters nix the Safe Drinking Water initiative in November.

Grants would also take care of first-year operating costs, pegged at $261,797. These include $128,095 for technicians to handle the hydrofluosilicic acid, $118,702 for the chemicals and $15,000 for monitoring, sampling and reporting its concentration in the water, the report said.

The city must commit to fluoridation for at least 10 years or forfeit a free ride on the first year's operation and repay the $1.6 million, said Phil Perry, assistant city manager and acting public works director, in his report to the council.

The city staff objects to those strings because they would obligate future city councils, Perry said.

The California Endowment would bankroll this grant. The $3 billion foundation formed in 1996 when insurance giant Blue Cross became a for-profit corporation, following a state requirement that proceeds from such conversions benefit the public.

The Sacramento-based Sierra Health Foundation would chip in $225,000 for equipment. That organization formed in 1984, after the Foundation Health Plan went corporate.

Finally, the Shasta County Public Health Department has pledged $100,000 toward equipment.

The report does not include $173,776 for equipment recently approved by the county Children and Families First Commission, which decides spending for cigarette tax money.

The county Public Health Department commissioned PSOMAS, a Santa Monica-based engineering firm, to do the fluoride study out of its Sacramento office for $25,000.

The report recommends the Public Health Department hire Lucy & Company, a Sacramento public relations firm, to promote the city's fluoridation program should voters reject the Safe Drinking Water initiative.

Lucy & Company would keep a database of people and organizations interested in fluoridation, create fliers, hold public meetings, draft press releases and advertisements, produce a video and develop an emergency response program to help the city reassure the public in case of a chemical spill.

The report pegs these services at $49,750 for one year.

PSOMAS recommends the city's fluoridation program achieve 10 parts per hundred million (pphm) concentration, based on annual average air temperatures between 61 and 65 degrees. Concentrations even 2 pphm lower "can reduce dental benefits significantly," the report said.

Fluoridation could push arsenic levels at one city well over the new federal standards, Perry said in his council report.

The city could wind up spending $126,000 a year blending water to dilute the arsenic or removing it from the well, Perry said, noting that water utility staffers are still investigating this issue.

The city also must plan to spend $336,740 on fluoridation equipment at four new wells scheduled for drilling in the coming decade and $162,229 on upkeep through 2012, the report said.

A November election could be moot if the state Department of Health Service orders fluoridation under a 1995 law requiring the chemical as a hedge against tooth decay in cities with more than 10,000 water connections, Warren said in his report.

Under that law, cities need not fluoridate unless they can line up money outside local taxes, fees and rates. Foundation grants fit that bill.

Yet the state has yet to order fluoridation in a city where voters have rejected it


link to second article from Redding