Overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic that forced many things to a halt in the past three years, the opioid crisis continued — and so did the lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and …
Overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic that forced many things to a halt in the past three years, the opioid crisis continued — and so did the lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and marketers brought by county governments across the country, including Gasconade County.
Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, last week announced that a settlement had been reached in the lawsuit, although he said it was too early to know just how the agreement might affect Gasconade County regarding the distribution of settlement funds. The class-action suit against the opioid industry was filed in 2018.
Deaths from opioid addiction was a top public-health concern for local and state governments. But the attention being paid to the growing addiction to the high-powered prescription painkillers and illegal derivatives of opium, such as heroin, was quickly pulled away from the problem with the arrival of the coronavirus. County health departments during the first year of COVID focused almost solely on the virus, setting aside most other aspects of public health service.
When litigation was started, local governments argued that the manufactures and distributors of opioids should help finance the treatment and recovery programs for those addicted to the product. At the time not knowing how the county might benefit, the Gasconade County Commission four years ago joined the effort being made by other counties taking on the drug makers and distributors in court.
Details of the settlement could be available soon.
In other action at last week’s Commission session held in Owensville City Hall, Sheriff Scott Eiler noted that the wording of intergovernmental agreements — the documents that will govern the distribution of a share of the county’s half-cent sales tax for law enforcement to five of the county’s six municipalities — has passed muster with the county’s outside legal counsel. Eiler said attorney Ivan Schraeder has signed off on the proposed agreements that will spell out how big of a slice each of the cities will get from 25 percent of the total amount raised.
Voters approved the law enforcement sales tax with the understanding that it would be split 75-25 between the county and the five municipalities that have a certified police officer — Owensville, Hermann, Rosebud, Bland and Gasconade. Morrison does not have a certified police officer, relying on the sheriff’s agency for primary police protection.
The tax was approved in April and will become effective Oct. 1. The first reimbursement check from the Missouri Department of Revenue to the county will arrive in November; however, county administrators think the first one or two checks will be quite small. The bulk of the money will start arrive after the first of the year, they say, as more merchants become aware of the new tax.
Municipalities will be receiving their portion of the 25 percent set-aside in February, noted County Clerk Lesa Lietzow. That’s the first time checks are written after the new operating budget has been approved. The County Commission has until the end of January to adopt a new spending plan.
Based on other sales taxes, it’s estimated the law enforcement sales tax will generate about $1 million a year. That means the Sheriff’s Department would keep $750,000 while making $250,000 available for distribution to the cities, based on population.
Also related to the Sheriff’s Department, Eiler reported that the arrival of a new truck the agency has been delayed for another month. Carmakers continue to have difficulty meeting orders for new vehicles, primarily because of a shortage of computer chips needed for the autos.
Eiler also noted that his agency will be making quarterly lease payments on the new truck and, he added, the department will be seeking three new vehicles — not five as previously thought — likely to be purchased outright with funds contained in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. Also, the agency will be acquiring Ford Explorers and not Dodge Durangos as initially planned, the sheriff said.
Also on the law enforcement front, the County Commission met Raffa, a dog from the Neatherlands that will be trained in detecting drugs. The county’s new K-9 Unit will include Raffa’s handler, Deputy Joe Lynch. Raffa is a Belgian Malinois, which is akin to the German Shepherd breed.
The dog is three years old and will take part in a six-week program where she will be trained in narcotics detection and crime control. The K-9 Unit will be made available to assist municipal police departments when requested, the sheriff said.
Raffa and Lynch will be getting around in their own vehicle. Eiler said his budget will include $51,350 for the specially-outfitted vehicle.
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