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Wheeling Looks to Join In W.Va. Suit Against Opioid Companies

WHEELING — In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, another lingering public health crisis is prompting Wheeling city officials to take action — the opioid epidemic.

Members of Wheeling City Council will meet in a virtual setting for the regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. today to take action on several matters, including legislation declaring a public nuisance has developed from the abuse of opioids in the community.

Legislation is scheduled to be introduced before council tonight declaring the unlawful distribution of prescription controlled substances has created a public nuisance for the citizens of the city. According to the resolution, the city “has received information which indicates that the manufacturers and wholesale distributors of controlled substances have violated federal laws and regulations that were enacted to prevent the diversion of legally produced controlled substances into the illicit market.”

According to Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron, this legislation will allow Wheeling to join other cities across the state that are taking action against opioid distributors.

“There is a class action-type lawsuit that involves various cities in the state of West Virginia,” Herron said. “It’s action against pharmaceutical companies and their excessive distribution of opioids in the state.”

The resolution goes on to declare that “opiate abuse, addiction, morbidity and mortality has created a serious public health and safety crisis in the city of Wheeling and is a public nuisance.”

The Associated Press has reported that communities involved in the action are seeking a $1.25 billion settlement with the opioid industry. A federal judge set a trial date of Aug. 31, which will serve as a deadline for the proposed settlement.

West Virginia has the highest fatal opioid overdose rate in the crisis that is linked to more than 430,000 deaths in the United States since 2000, according to the AP.

In other action today, the city will consider a number of new pieces of legislation when council members hold their regular meeting online via Zoom once again because of social distancing orders as part of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other action expected to be taken includes:

-A first reading on an ordinance that is expected to be a final resolution to the city’s ongoing food truck regulation debate. The legislation aims to keep a 100-foot radius between street vendors setting up in the public right of way and existing businesses that sell similar wares. Additionally, the ordinance also allows for the city manager or the assistant city manager, at his or her discretion, to assign vendor positions within areas located in the central business district. City officials have indicated they hoped this compromise will allow downtown and Centre Market restaurants to operate in harmony with food truck vendors.

-An ordinance authorizing the city manager to spend $45,454 with Philadelphia Mixing Solutions of Palmyra, Pa., for two Raven Retrofit mixer drive replacements to be charged to the water treatment plant.

-A resolution authorizing the city manager to execute all the required documents related to the assignment of a franchise transfer from Centre Cable TV to Massillon Cable TV to provide services in the Clearview area.

-A resolution in support of the city of Wheeling’s application for WV Land & Water Conservation Fund Resources for a renovation project at Edgington Lane Park. The city has an available match to cover half the amount of the proposed renovation in the amount of $250,000, according to the legislation.

-Members of city council’s finance committee are scheduled to meet at 5:15 p.m. to discuss March finances and any other fiscal matter deemed necessary. City officials are expected to discuss the financial impact that business closures related to the corona virus crisis are having on the city’s revenues.

Because of the pandemic, the city building remains closed to the public. Tonight’s council and finance committee meetings can be viewed online on the city’s official social media sites. Anyone wishing to be heard or to make public commend may call 304-551-2151 at any time up to 15 minutes prior to the start of the city council meeting. A three-minute window to speak will be made available virtually to those making arrangements with the city clerk to speak during the council meeting.

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