After 1,092 residents of the community cast vote against fluoride, the majority of the Greater Pine Island Water Association board of directors decided to terminate the grant the board approved in May.
The GPIWA approved a $63,000 grant from the Florida Health Department at its May 22 meeting that would provide the funds to construct the infrastructure and purchase equipment needed to add residual fluoride to the water supply.
Although a total of 2,230 ballots were received regarding the fluoride issue, only 2,156 were valid. A total of 1,032 members voted to increase the fluoride level to 0.7 ppm to the water and 1,092 voted against the addition.
The ballot was sent out to 5,840 members on Nov. 9 with a deadline of Dec. 6.
President Mike Faulkner started the meeting by asking all board of directors to either vote yes, which meant they supported the motion to move forward and add fluoride to the water, or no, meaning they did not desire to add fluoride into the water.
Secretary Carlyn Herring said even though she personally felt that fluoride is a huge benefit to the water system, based on the vote by the community, she voted no in moving forward with the grant and therefore the addition of fluoride to the water.
Board Director Bill Stoelker said since he has always been an advocate of the majority rule, he was compelled to vote no.
Treasurer Kent Hines said although he too thought it was the right thing to put fluoride in the water, he went with the majority of the community and voted against the addition.
Board Director Tom Cleaver said he voted against fluoride out of respect of the way the community voted.
"I do want to thank everyone who voted," he said. "This number of ballots cast is something on the order of three times the number of ballots we see on the annual ballots. That speaks loudly. I think that's great that so many people voted."
Cleaver said the board's intentions for promoting the case of fluoride was to make sure the members heard their position.
"We wanted to be clear what our position was," he said.
Board Director John Cammick said although he initially voted for fluoride and he still believes in its benefits, he regretfully voted no for fluoride in the Pine Island water.
Faulkner said although he believes adding fluoride to the water is the right thing to do, he believes more strongly in the way the members voted. He voted against the addition.
The remaining three board members voted for adding fluoride to the water.
Vice President Dennis Ward said the information he researched was overwhelming in favor of fluoridation, so he voted in favor.
Board Director Sonny Koutsoutis said since she did not have fluoride as a child, she has a mouthful of metal, which is why she voted for the addition of fluoride.
Board Director Frank Potter said the safety of adding this nutrient has been documented for more than 60 years.
"The vote to increase the fluoride to the optimum level in our water was an easy one for me. The science behind the benefits to dental health is clear and undisputable and the safety of adding this nutrient to a water system has been documented during its more than 60 years of use," Potter said. "Water fluoridation has been endorsed or supported by ADA, AMA, CDC, U.S. Surgeon General, Florida Surgeon General and many other expert institutions. I have a doctorate in biostatistics from the school of public health at UNC-Chapel Hill and I have been involved in public health research for nearly 40 years. I have critically reviewed the documents and articles for and against water fluoridation."
He said based on that research, he again voted for increasing the level of fluoride in the GPIWA to the optimum level fort he benefit of all GPIWA association members now and in the future.
The motion to terminate the acceptance of the fluoride grant passed with a 6-3 vote.
Jack Mills, a member of Citizens for Safe Water, said he wanted to thank the board for its consideration.
"I want to thank the board for doing what's right for the community. They did what they said they would do and I appreciate that," he said.
The group, which spent countless hours researching fluoride and educating the community of what they learned, was very happy with the outcome.
"I am proud of the group and all of their extensive effort," Mills said.
The group spent many hours at Winn-Dixie and the library collecting signatures for the petition of adding fluoride to the water. Mills said because of that effort, the young, elderly, horses, dogs and cats will not have to consume fluoridated water.
Although the room was full of Pine Island residents during the vote, only a few stayed behind after the vote became official.
Kathy Malone, a 30-year member, said thank you to the board for their vote.
"I'm glad you put your trust in people and what we wanted," she said.
Malone was on the ballot monitoring committee for the fluoride ballots.
"I was very impressed," she said of the system, which included the committee counting the ballots among peers and then recounting with another group of peers. "There was no possibility of error or anyone changing any number."
Malone concluded by saying she really appreciated the committee's efforts in counting the ballots.
Katherine Aldridge also spoke and said she wanted to thank the board for doing all it has done since May.
"This is a volunteer position," she said. "It has been very stressful for them and their families. I hope you appreciate what they have done."
Faulkner said at this time the debating for fluoride is over.
"The decision has been made and I hope we can move forward," he said.
Now the Citizens for Safe Water is looking for support from the community for a proposed addition to the GPIWA bylaws.
That proposed addition states, "Addition, removal or alteration of substances into, or from the water supply that are intended for processing and sanitation of water shall be exempt from this article. Nutrients and other substances that are deemed beneficial to public health may be added to, or removed from the Greater Pine Island Water Association, Inc. water supply system by a majority vote of the voting membership in a regular or special meeting of the association unless specifically mandated or prohibited by law or regulatory agency."
It further states, "The board of directors shall not be authorized to add, remove, or alter the level of nutrients and other substances to or from the water upon their discretion, without the passage of a majority vote of the voting membership in a regular or special meeting, except upon the immediate need or cause of public safety. If the board of directors add, remove, or alter the level of nutrients or other substances for the purpose of immediate public safety concern, they must notify the members of such action and schedule a meeting not later than 30 days from the action for the purpose of calling a vote of the membership for the majority approval or disapproval of the action. Such actions that are disapproved by a majority vote of the membership shall be reversed, and the water shall be restored to its previous condition."
This will be a part of the ballot that is sent out before the GPIWA's annual meeting.