The board of directors of the Greater Pine Island Water Association sent out 5,840 ballots in the mail Friday to provide the members with an opportunity to vote whether or not they want to increase the fluoride level to 0.7 ppm.
The ballot, which contains three pages - two letters and the ballot, must be returned to the GPIWA no later than Dec. 6 by 3 p.m. In order for the ballot to be counted, it must be signed by a member on record as listed on the attached mailing label.
The ballot can only be signed by one member of the household.
William Thatcher, GPIWA general manager, said even if the member has five meters, only one ballot can be signed. He said that's the way the forefathers set it up.
Thatcher said the counting of the ballots will begin Dec. 6 and finish the following day Dec. 7 by the ballot committee. He said the ballot committee is the same group of individuals that GPIWA uses for the election of new board members.
The committee will match the signature with the outside label and count the certified ballots to provide a number of those for and against adding fluoride to the water for the board.
He said the results will be announced Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. at the GPIWA regularly scheduled board meeting to be held at the Pine Island United Methodist Church to accommodate those who attend.
"I can't encourage people strongly enough to return the ballots. It would be a shame that we didn't get a response that is representative of the whole island," Tom Cleaver, GPIWA board of director said, adding that it is very important to make your voice be heard.
He said the board collectively feels that the right thing to do is provide the members with the opportunity to vote - give them a voice - if they want fluoride to be added to their drinking water.
"Even though we made the decision that we are going to do a vote, I think it's real important that it does not in any way mean we are less supportive of fluoridating the water," Cleaver said.
President Mike Faulkner said with adding the optimum level of fluoride in the drinking water, it not only helps your teeth, but your overall health. He said the infections start in your teeth and can spread to the rest of your body.
"Fluoride promotes the overall health in people," he said.
Thatcher said the board believes adding fluoride to the water is a true benefit for its members. He said they found an inexpensive way to provide that benefit for Pine Island residents.
Tooth decay, Thatcher said, can be reduced by 25 percent over a lifetime by community fluoride.
"Water fluoridation as part of a routine dental program can make life better," he said.
Faulkner encourages individuals to do their own research and evaluate their decision by going to the GPIWA and the Citizens for Safe Water website.
"The board is comprised of nine volunteer members and we unanimously decided to do this because it's beneficial to Pine Island," he said of adding fluoride to the water. "We feel that it is a good thing to do. There are no motives behind what we are doing."
A cover letter from Faulkner, which will be sent out with the ballot, states, "The board has received feedback pro and con about this decision. The board believes that those opposed to water fluoridation represent a minority within our membership. However, to receive guidance from the members, the association is conducting a written ballot vote on the question of additional fluoride. This will provide all members a voice to share their recommendation."
Faulkner encourages people not to throw the ballot away.
"We want to hear the voice of the entire Pine Island community and not just a few," he said.