Updated April 13 at 8 pm
Voters overwhelmingly defeated an initiative to add fluoride to the town’s water, a rebuff to a controversial order issued by the board of health.
In a vote of 700 to 253, with 16 blanks, the fluoride initiative lost, despite the strong backing of dental and health professionals on the Island.
The town’s board of health voted to add fluoride, prompting a controversy over the decision and the process used to issue that order. The town’s water commission opposed the move. Ultimately, a petition was circulated to bring the fluoride issue to a townwide vote culminating in Thursday’s no vote.
Garrett Orazem, Vineyard Haven dentist and member of the Edgartown board of health, said he was disappointed with the outcome.
“I think Edgartown missed the opportunity to improve dental health for the entire town, regardless of people’s ability to arrange for their own dental care,” he said. “I think we did a good job of getting out the information on the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation.”
But there was criticism of how the board of health went about instituting the order from the town’s water commissioners.
“Some people seemed to think this was foisted on them, but according to state law, it is the board of health of the town that votes on fluoridation,” Orazem said. “It’s much more effective to deal with dental issues preventatively. I’m told that the waiting list for the dental clinic at the hospital is two years.”
Of the town’s 3,627 registered voters, 969, or 26 percent, went to the polls.
In a contested race for selectmen, incumbent Arthur Smadbeck was returned to office over challenger Gail Gardner. That race was much closer, with Smadbeck getting 500 votes to Gardner’s 444.
Smadbeck, the board’s chairman for the past year, has 24 years of experience. “I’m grateful that I have enough support in town to continue as a selectman,” Smadbeck said. “I’m very appreciative.”
Gardner, an Edgartown school teacher, was an outspoken critic of the process used to pick a new police chief. She writes the Edgartown column for The Times.
“I’m happy. I’m fine. I’m great. I would have prefered to win, but we ran a great campaign,” Gardner said. “It’s really hard to defeat an incumbent.”
Gardner said she’ll look to stay in politics by volunteering for a town committee, and didn’t rule out a future run for office. “I have great interest in it,” she said.
There were five other questions on the Edgartown ballot as well, all having to do with money.
- Question 1: Voters approved $400,000 for resurfacing town streets by a vote of 619-246.
- Question 2: Voters approved $350,000 for sidewalks, bike paths, and drainage by a vote of 733-205.
- Question 3: Voters approved $225,000 for a street sweeper by a vote of 562-356.
- Question 4: In the closest vote, voters rejected $1.2 million for Katama Airfield hangar by a vote of 469-466.
- Question 5: The $3.7 million for various wastewater projects was approved 588-322.
In other contested races, Paulo DeOliveira (670), Robert Coad (717), and Morton Fearey Jr. (498) defeated Jane Chittick (364) for the financial advisory committee. Scott Morgan (600) was elected over Robert Strayton (164) for planning board. And a water commission race was decided in favor of James Kelleher (593) over Fred Domont (231).
In uncontested races, Chris Scott was returned to the board of assessors; E. Garrett Orazem was returned to the board of health; Scott Ellis was elected constable; James Carter was elected to the financial advisory committee; Herbert Foster and Julie Lively were elected library trustees; Sean Murphy is the new town moderator, Kevin Searle was elected park commissioner; Megan Anderson was elected to the school committee, Melissa Kuehne was elected town collector; and Murphy was elected to the wastewater committee.