LINCOLN, Maine — Health Access Network officials want town leaders to consider allowing the water supply shared by Howland and Lincoln to be fluoridated, officials said Thursday.
Lincoln’s Town Council will discuss Health Access CEO Dawn Cook and Dr. Noah Nesin’s request that town leaders support the fluoridation of town public water supplies, which also serve Howland, when councilors meet later this month, Lincoln Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said.
It’s not a new idea, Goodwin said.
“The last time that came forward, the voters turned it down,” Goodwin said of the 2006 election, in which residents opted to leave water untouched by a vote of 1,305-515.
Howland’s Board of Selectmen would also have to agree to have the question placed on that town’s ballot in the November elections, Goodwin said.
Howland Town Manager Jane Jones did not immediately return telephone and email messages seeking comment Thursday.
In 2006, the Lincoln council opted not to support placing the question on the ballot, and HAN was left to gather the required number of signatures on a petition seeking the question’s placement on the ballot — 10 percent of the number of people who voted in Lincoln and Howland in the last governor’s election.
HAN would have to do the same thing again if leaders in both towns seek not to pass the question to voters, Goodwin said.
Health Access Network is a federally funded community health center that handles 13,000 patients, or 50,000 visits, annually at its West Broadway location in Lincoln.
Fluoridation is a somewhat controversial subject, with advocates arguing that it improves dental health in children and critics saying the connection between the practice and any supposed improvement in dental health is tenuous, at best. Public water has been fluoridated in the U.S. since the 1940s.
Fluoridation would not come free. In 2006, estimates were that it would cost water rate payers about $126,500, or a 2.5 percent increase in the town’s present water rates, Goodwin said. Today it would cost slightly more than that, Goodwin said.
She hopes to have a presentation on the costs, benefits and potential hazards of fluoridation when the council meets.