By Lance Manning
The Leader-Herald - November 19, 1999

JOHNSTOWN, New York - Mayor William Pollak signed a law today that prohibits putting fluoride in the public water supply. The mayor's decision comes four days after a public hearing on the law in which opponents and proponents of fluoride expressed their views. The city council "The people of Johnstown have one more reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving," said Diane Boerner, who opposes fluoride in water supplies.

Johnstown resident Edith Grahn, who opposes putting fluoride in the water, said this morning, "The news that Mayor Pollak signed the anti-fluoride proposition into law brings an end to the contentious issue that has plagued the city for months. The mayor's unmistakable persona and style will bring us all together again.

Pollak has taken no side on the issue publicly and had no comment after signing the law. The fluoride controversy in the city began in August, when the water board decided to fluoridate the water. The water department stopped adding the fluoride a. few days later, however, after the water board realized a law
is necessary before adding the chemical. The city council later determined it had the authority to pass a law.

Water board member David Ackerbauer said this morning, 'The council is guilty of listening to a minority view. They responded to the screamers and never looked at the medical evidence." "As is typical in a democracy, there is a time to fight and a time to heal," said Grahn, "Johnstown has over the years survived like situations that tested our mettle as dedicated citizens."

The fluoride issue continued to divide the community when two public information sessions were held. The first meeting pro-fluoride forces behind the water board's expert, Dr. Michael Easley who said fluoride is
safe and should be used for the benefit of the residents. The second meeting offered an anti-fluoride expert, Dr. Paul Connett, who said fluoride causes health problems and should not be added to any public water supply.

All five members of the water board are in favor of adding fluoride. The five members of the city common council are opposed to fluoride. The deadlock was broken when a common council-hired law firm determined the city council makes the decision, The council promptly passed a resolution spelling out a law that would prohibit putting fluoride into the water supply. The law focused on the right of the people to have a choice as to whether they wanted fluoride in their water.

In the November general election, Stacie Gartung, opposed to the addition of fluoride to the water supply, ran against incumbent water board member Jack Peters, who favored fluoride. Gartung handily defeated Peters. After learning the law was signed, Gartang said, "I think the mayor did what was best for the city."

Many residents were originally upset with the August water board action to add the fluoride because it was done without their input or knowledge. Some residents are still upset with the water board's August decision to add the fluoride. At Monday's public hearing, Theresa Ellithorp said, "The water board acted in a deceitful and underhanded manner when it purchased fluoride and equipment knowing full well that 12 years ago people didn't want it."

In the late 1980s, the water board proposed fluoridating the water supply but changed its mind after members of the public opposed the plan. At October's water board meeting, the board passed a resolution to sell the fluoride it had left on hand.

Speaking in favor of fluoride at the public hearing, Kristen Ackerbauer, daughter of the water board member, accused the common council of not listening to the people and not providing modern leadership. "Children don't sign petitions or attend public hearings. Johnstown needs to move into the 20th century, not the 21st century," she said.

The law will now go to Albany to the Department of State, where it will be certified and filed.