Woodland surveys residents on fluoridation, tax hikes

Majority of those who responded oppose both

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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The majority of Woodland residents oppose fluoridated water and higher taxes to pay for park and road maintenance, according to a survey of city residents.

Of the 155 people who responded to a mail survey in April, 72 percent said they opposed a tax increase or car tab to pay for road improvements, while 66 percent said they were against paying more to irrigate and maintain city parks. Residents received the survey as part of their utility bills.

The city council will review the findings at its next workshop meeting Monday.

The results come as little surprise to city officials, who have scaled back spending on parks and looked at alternatives to paying for transportation projects.

Since 2009, the city has cut about $125,000 a year from its parks budget, Mayor Grover Laseke said. Loss of funding led the city last year to stop irrigating Horseshoe Lake Park.

The city's planned transportation projects will rely on state grant dollars to move forward. The city maintains about 30 miles of streets, which includes state right of way.

"Money has been tight for our normal transportation budget for the last few years," Laseke said. "We've been fortunate to get some grants that are earmarked for projects in the city."

The city has received a $2 million state grant for the design and construction of a new intersection at East Scott Avenue and state Highway 503. The city will contribute about $200,000 as a match for the project.

Fluoridation

Meanwhile, 56 percent of survey respondents said they were against fluoridated drinking water.

The city has fluoridated its water, off and on, for two decades.

Portland voters recently defeated a referendum to add fluoride to its water supply by a nearly 2-1 margin. Starting last year, around the time the issue of fluoridation became controversial in Portland, Woodland began receiving emails from people concerned about fluoride in the city's water supply.

The city currently doses its water supply at 1 milligram per liter of water. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends fluoridation levels not exceed .7 milligram per liter, but the standards haven't been adopted by the Washington State Department of Health Drinking Water Program.

Bart Stepp, the city's public works director, said reducing fluoride levels in the city's water supply wouldn't make sense but added the city could decide to remove fluoride altogether.

Although the survey wasn't conducted scientifically, the city council could use it to shade decisions in the future, Laseke said.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com.