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Pool Trust Offers up to $500,000 for Fluoridation

by JOE McDERMOTT, The Morning Call

Wednesday, February 17, 1999

The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust will pay up to $500,000 of the start-up costs to fluoridate Allentown water, Mayor William L. Heydt and trust Executive Director Edward F. Meehan announced Tuesday.

The grant will cover the estimated $340,000 for design and installation of equipment needed to start the fluoridation program, and the trust has agreed to pay for additional consulting or technical assistance, according to a statement released by Meehan.

"In making these resources available, the trust requests that the city of Allentown will begin the bid process at this time and that full implementation will be conducted in an efficient and expeditious manner," Meehan said.

The trust, a charitable organization established by Air Products and Chemicals' founder Leonard Parker Pool, is also asking for documentation of the bidding and confirmation the city will cover subsequent routine maintenance and annual fluoridation costs.

"This ends, in my opinion a 40-year struggle to fluoridate city water," said Heydt, thanking the trust, City Council and city employees who provided research on the background and costs of fluoridation that led to last month's 5-2 council vote.

Though the primary goal is to improve dental health for children, "Some of us old bucks will benefit a little, too," Heydt said.

The Citizens for Children's Dental Health applied for the grant in August when fluoridation was reintroduced to council, but officials expected only about $200,000, said Heydt. The mayor learned of the grant amount late Monday afternoon in a call from Meehan. "The situation is they want to make it happen," he said.

Meehan said the trust has supported fluoridation for years -- council as recently as 1993 rejected it -- and agreed to pay all start-up costs after a normal review of the original grant and a request for more information from the city.

"I think this is important, and it has been adequately studied," Meehan said. "This is a proposal we have been looking at since August. It's not speeded up in any way."

But despite council's Jan. 21 vote, council members Emma Tropiano and Ernest Toth and city Controller Louis J. Hershman have asked for further study on the costs and benefits of fluoridation. Tropiano earlier this month introduced a bill calling for a 10-member study commission. It was referred to the Public Works Committee, which she chairs, and she said Tuesday she plans to move ahead with the legislation.

"What am I supposed to do, get excited?" Tropiano said when informed of the grant. "The money doesn't entice me at all."

A longtime opponent of fluoridation, Tropiano said city residents should not have to pay for fluoride that will also be used in non-drinking water.

"I don't know why the dentists are so concerned. Why don't they open up their offices for the children (free of charge)?" she asked.

She also criticized the Pool Trust, saying the money would be better spent assisting the Allentown Public Library or other programs aimed at children.

Tropiano said the city has purchased equipment for fluoridation in the past and questioned its whereabouts. Water Resources Manager Daniel Koplish said the city bought a chemical storage tank in 1973 but turned it over to the streets department when fluoridation was vetoed.

Koplish said it will be about 18 months before fluoride is added to city water, but Heydt said the staff has been told to move quickly.

Supporters have worked since 1961 to win city support for fluoridation, and it has been a topic of debate since the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a test program on 500 boys and girls at the Allentown Boys Club in 1949.

The idea was thought dead after 1993, until Councilmen Frank J. Concannon and David M. Howells Sr. agreed last year to sponsor a new bill.

"This is not a new concept. It really does make a difference in the dental health of a community," said city Health Bureau Director Barbara Stader. "It's not the be-all and end-all. (Children) still have to brush and eat right."

But fluoridation will eliminate the need for fluoride pills prescribed for children drinking Allentown water and will substantially reduce the cavity rate, said Stader and other fluoride proponents.

An ecstatic Stader promised to offer toasts with fluoridated water in champagne glasses at the water treatment plant when the valves are turned on to add the chemical to the water supply.

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The Morning Call

Thursday, February 18, 1999

Last month, after Allentown City Council overcame decades of ignorance and approved fluoridating the city's water supply 5-2, Health Director Barbara Stader asked Water Resources Manager Daniel E. Koplish a simple question: "Now what?"

She was just kidding, but getting council to approve fluoridation was one thing. Implementing it was another. City officials still had to do the engineering and figure out how to pay for it. Tuesday, the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust took care of most, if not all of, the start-up costs of the fluoridation program. "This ends, in my opinion, a 40-year struggle to fluoridate city water," said a jubilant Mayor William L. Heydt. Part of the reason for his happiness is that the trust is a leading advocate for public health in the Lehigh Valley. Its endorsement, by way of the grant, affirms the wisdom of the Allentown decision.

Trust Executive Director Edward F. Meehan announced that the trust will pay up to $500,000 of the start-up costs. The grant will cover the estimated $340,000 for design and installation of equipment. The trust also has agreed to pay for additional consulting and technical assistance. For its part, the city must provide the trust with bidding documentation for the fluoride program and confirmation that the city will cover annual fluoride costs and routine maintenance.

Mr. Koplish said it will be about 18 months before fluoride is added to the city's water, however, Mayor Heydt has told the department to move as quickly as possible. Thanks to the trust, that's financially possible.

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Last modified: 6 August 2001

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