Council takes steps towards fluoride decision

After another lengthy debate, council has put off the decision regarding fluoride in Red Deer’s water once again.

“This is just the next decision making point after the first phase of public consultation,” said Deputy Mayor and Councillor Tara Veer.

Council had four options presented to them regarding what their next steps could be including a plebiscite, a council decision, more public consultation, and an educational process for the City.

During the first phase of public consultation, 511 survey responses were collected, 88% of which were from Red Deerians. The remaining percentage of responses was from regional water customers.

Of the 511 responses, 48% wanted to see more public consultation, 31.1% wanted to see council make the choice and 26% wanted the choice to go to a plebiscite.

The recommended option would be to carry out further educational programs for locals and then more public consultation followed by council debate.

Councillor Lynne Mulder said during the first phase of public consultation the online discussion with councillors was her favourite part.

Senior Communication Officer for the City, Tara Shand, made the presentation regarding the results of the survey and said that while the information is great, council needs to factor in all of the information they’ve received.

“It’s been interesting to see the new and different ideas that have come up to engage citizens. It’s good to see us reaching out to do things we haven’t done in the past,” said Councillor Cindy Jefferies.

Jefferies said she would like to see further education provided to the public even if a plebiscite is not done to make a decision.

“When this all started I thought it was an easy decision to make. When do we have enough information to make a decision on fluoride?” said Councillor Dianne Wyntjes.

One of the recommendations was to bring in a community jury of 12 to help make the decision, but very few members of council supported this idea.

“Everybody 100 per cent wants more education and more information. Fluoride came in by plebiscite, it should stay or go by plebiscite,” said Mulder.

Jefferies pointed out that council is the ultimate decision-makers and said she doesn’t see a plebiscite as the best way to go.

“Perhaps the question on plebiscite should come after our next phase of discussion on this,” said Councillor Paul Harris.

Harris pointed out that in his dealings with the public it seems that the older population is either strongly for or against fluoride while the younger crowd seems to be either heavily against or not care at all.

“We have to use a tool that will reach the entire population. We need to have the education and have council listen very carefully and then decide,” said Harris.

A resolution passed that council will start another round of public consultation and education as of April 1 and that the findings will come back to council in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Community consultation and education can be carried out to a total sum of $30,000 and the final choice may or may not include a plebiscite.

Council also unanimously passed a resolution to make application to the province to lower our fluoridation levels from 0.8 to 0.7. This process can take months and would not be a substantial cost savings for the City.

kpalardy@reddeerexpress.com

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