Opponents of fluoride use in Petersburg’s water and supporters of all-terrain vehicle use on Petersburg streets are both circulating petitions to get those topics on the October ballot. The Petersburg borough has certified two ordinances for signature gathering to force a vote on the topics.
One petition seeks to allow off-highway vehicles on most roads in the Petersburg borough. Richard Burke is collecting signatures and said on Thursday he distributed copies to sign at NAPA, Homeport Electronics, Rocky’s Marine, Alaska Fibre and the Trees.
The proposal has changed since Burke first brought it to the borough. For one, the change would no longer include snow machines. It would allow on-street use of ATVs and utility task vehicles, commonly called side-by-sides. Burke has also removed some of the streets for ATV use.
“You know start big and then you kind of whittle it down to something that works,” Burke said. “After a couple of attempts with the borough attorney reviewing it and stuff, ended up with, I had to lose Haugen, South Nordic and Mitkof Highway. So I lost all the high speed roads but in town is still fine and you can still cross these roads with off highway vehicles.”
Burke has proposed the change as a cheaper mode of transportation for short trips around town. Burke’s proposed ordinance would require ATV drivers to have a driver’s license for on-street use. The vehicles also would need to be registered with the state and the borough for people driving on Mitkof Island. To that end, Burke is proposing a new two-year registration sticker for $100, given out by the borough. He said that will bring in more money for the borough.
“The assembly keeps saying that borough is broke and they’re cutting services and this will generate revenue,” he explained. “It will generate quite a bit of profit for the borough per machine that’s registered.”
Other restrictions, like helmets for drivers under 18 and flags for ATV visibility, are spelled out in the proposed ordinance. There’s also a list of fines for breaking the proposed law. Opponents of the change cite safety concerns allowing the smaller vehicles on streets used by cars and trucks. The Special Vehicle Institute of America, which represents off-road vehicle companies, says ATVs are not designed for driving on public streets roads and highways and urges statewide bans on the practice.
Meanwhile, another petition circulating in the borough seeks to end the addition of fluoride to Petersburg’s water supply. Dana Thynes lives on Kupreanof but has a music studio in Petersburg and said she uses a filter for the water there.
“I wanna encourage people to do their own research,” Thynes said. “It’s liberating, even though it’s time consuming. And don’t assume that the doctors and dentists that you know and trust and like have had any more time to research than you have had. Just like you they have trusted in the word of some authority and maybe they haven’t gone looking beyond that.”
Opponents of fluoride cite health concerns from exposure to too much and say the use of fluoride should be a personal choice. The medical staff at Petersburg Medical Center, along with the American Dental Association and Centers for Disease Control support continued fluoridation as a way to decrease cavities and dental costs.
Just under half of the population in Alaska on a community water supply has fluoridated water, ranking Alaska 43rd among the 50 states. Sitka is the only other community in Southeast to add fluoride. Voters here approved the addition to the water in 1986 and voted to keep it in the water in 1998.
Thynes says 12 people are circulating the fluoride petition. People who want to sign can call her at 518-0342. Others gathering signatures are Tamara Evens and Holly Winje.
For both questions, supporters need to submit the signatures of 283 borough voters. That’s the requirement set in Petersburg’s charter for signatures from one quarter of the total votes cast in last fall’s borough election. To get the questions on this October’s ballot, petitioners have until July 3rd to submit those signatures and have them certified by the borough clerk.