WILLIAMSON – At a special meeting of the Williamson City Council held Friday afternoon, the council voted to have the T. Chafin Law Firm represent the city in a lawsuit against wholesale drug distribution companies. The council also voted to approve a reading of a proposed ordinance that, if passed, would prohibit new drug treatment facilities from being established within the city of Williamson.
The city joins several other municipalities and counties throughout the state of West Virginia in lawsuits that seek to hold wholesale drug distribution companies accountable for their alleged involvement in contributing to the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the state.
The Chafin Law Firm had presented a proposal regarding the drug distribution litigation to the council at previous meetings of the Williamson City Council. At the time, the council had voted to table the discussion to gather more information and allow all interested firms the opportunity to present proposals to the city. Local attorney, Mark Mitchell had also presented a similar proposal at a prior Williamson City Council meeting.
The motion to approve a presentation of a proposed ordinance prohibiting the establishment of drug treatment facilities was met with opposition by the many citizens that attended the meeting. In the absence of Williamson City Attorney, Joshua Ferrell, local attorney Nathan Brown was appointed to act in his capacity.
Brown read the proposed ordinance stating, “Having through due diligence determined that it would serve to promote the good, safety, protection, health, welfare, and the economy of the city of Williamson, of its synergy, those residing, working and/or visiting it is the lawful purpose and intent of this section to prohibit the use of any land and to prohibit the remodeling, the expansion, the conversion and/ or new construction of any building or dwelling situated within the incorporated or annexed boundaries within the city of Williamson for purposes of inquiring, owning, renting, leasing for occupancy use and operation as a private, commercial or any other form of lawful business entity whether for profit, nonprofit and/ or federal, state or local agencies funded in which primary or general purpose is to solicit, accept, and receive, facilitate offer and provide treatment and rehabilitative services to substance abuse and addicted clientele, customers, patience, and which entities may commonly be referred to as detoxification, substance abuse, recovery, drug treatment and/or rehabilitation centers.”
Brown continued reading the ordinance which outlined prohibited acts concerning the establishment of new substance abuse rehabilitation facilities. Prohibited acts listed in the proposed ordinance include, “building permit, certificate of occupancy, business certificate and/or license by the sanctioning body within the governmental structure within the city of Williamson.”
Brown concluded reading the proposed ordinance stating, “Any such facility that would be prohibited above in the existence prior to the adoption of this ordinance can continue to operate and be used as it was being used at the time the ordinance. However, if at any time the pre- ordinance existing facility ceases operation or is abandoned it would then fall subject to the above ordinance.”
A heated discussion among council and the audience occurred following the reading. A portion of the discussion involved confusion among those in attendance that the ordinance would hinder the progress of the Serenity Point recovery center proposed for the Sycamore Inn location on Second Avenue. The council explained that the proposed ordinance would not impact the facility since the facility had been previously been approved for funding. However, many residents continued to express disapproval of the proposed ordinance.
If the ordinance is passed, it could prevent new recovery or treatment facilities from being established in the city of Williamson including clinics which provide Suboxone or Methadone. Existing facilities would not be impacted if the ordinance is passed.
The first reading of the proposed ordinance has been scheduled for the next regular meeting of the Williamson City Council which will be held in Council Chambers at Williamson City Hall Thursday, March 23 at 6 p.m.
Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242.