BROOKSVILLE - County commissioners will find out Tuesday if they want to spend an estimated $800,000 to fluoridate the water supply for more than 60,000 households in Hernando County.
That's probably how much it would cost, according to Susan Goebel-Canning, the county's director of environmental services. She arrived at that figure by seeing how much it would cost one of the county's water treatment plants, Seville, for initial purchase costs, equipment and installation of fluoride. That number came to $30,000. Multiply that by 27 - the number of treatment plants in Hernando County - and it comes to about $800,000.
However, to get a true cost, she said each of the plants would need to be looked at individually. Goebel-Canning said the utilities department would develop a more accurate cost estimate should commissioners determine there is enough interest implementing fluoride.
The Hernando County Utility department's water system reaches 62,000 households. The rest are on a private well system and would not be affected by the proposed fluoridation.
Goebel-Canning said it would likely take one year to introduce fluoride to the water after a final vote is taken.
"I am neither for or against fluoride," Goebel-Canning said. "I will support what is best for the citizens of the county and respect the decision of the county commission."
Mandatory fluoridation in drinking water has proven a divisive issue in counties throughout Florida.
After months of debate, Brooksville City Council members late last year voted 4-1 to add the chemical to the water. But there was vigorous debate leading up to that vote.
This Tuesday, county commissioners will dip a tentative toe into the fluoride controversy. They have carved out time on their agenda for Pinellas County dentist Johnny Johnson and others to give a presentation on the benefits of hydrofluosilicic acid and why it should be added to the drinking supply.
Johnson, a self-proclaimed fluoride crusader, is fresh from his victory on the Brooksville battleground where he played a key role in getting the council to vote as it did.
Some county commissioners have already weighed in on the matter.
County Commissioner Jim Adkins told Hernando Today last month he has no opinion either way about fluoride and welcomes the presentation to hear the pros and cons.
County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said he is neither for or against fluoride in county water but is aware of the controversy.
"It's one of those subjects that draws a lot of interest from both sides," he said. "It should be interesting."
Commissioner Dave Russell also needs to hear more.
"I really don't know enough to make an informed decision at this point," Russell said.
On its Facebook page, the Fluoride Action Network is urging people to voice their opposition to county commissioners before the meeting.
FAN is a coalition of scientists who banded together to tout the hazards of fluoride and call it unnecessary, ineffective and unsafe.
This won't be the first time the debate has reached the county commission level.
In the late 1980s, commissioners came close to approving fluoride in the water supply but were discouraged after finding it would cost more than $300,000 to implement such a project. There was also a huge public outcry at the time.
The county commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.
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Also on the agenda:
??Commissioners will have the option of discussing a recent planning and zoning decision that allowed a Brooksville woman to open up her existing dog training facility off Hayman Road to RVers from across the nation.
Dozens of neighbors showed up at the P&Z meeting to protest Bonnie McDonald's request for a conditional use permit.
Residents all had the same concerns: too much noise, too many RVs on narrow Hayman Road, too many dogs barking and people imbibing too much alcohol and wandering on to their properties.
??The Ridge Manor Community Center Board has offered to provide the east wing portion of its center for temporary library services to cater to patrons until the East Hernando Branch Library reopens.
The library is still under repair after it was damaged from fire in July 2013.
To view the entire agenda, visit http ://hernandocountyfl.iqm2 .com/citizens.