HUBER HEIGHTS — State Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) visited Huber Heights City Council Monday night with the idea of filling in council members about the budget process going on in Columbus. He found out that while council members were interested in the budget, they were much more interested in the opioid crisis that is sweeping the state.
Beagle represents the 5th District, which includes the portion of Huber Heights in Miami County. He took time to explain the biennial budget process which is going on right now in Columbus and has to be completed by the end of June.
Once he got through the dollars and cents and asked for questions, Beagle was greeted with concerns about the drug epidemic.
Council Member Richard Shaw started the conversation with a question about Senate Bill 1 which is concerned with making possession of fentanyl a more serious crime.
“We all know there’s an opioid crisis and we all know that heroin is being cut with a couple things, fentanyl and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer,” Beagle said. “The amount of heroin you carry in order to be considered a trafficker is a certain amount. Currently, under today’s law you have to carry that much fentanyl to be considered a trafficker … so we reduced the amount of fentanyl that one has to be caught with before one is considered a trafficker.”
Council Member Janell Smith then asked about how the $1 billion added to the state budget for the opioid crisis would be used.
“We’re approaching the problem in a number of ways,” he said. “Certainly investing in addiction treatment and facilities and staffing is one component of it that we could always use more money. We’ve attacked it legislatively through efforts to limit the prescribing of opioids. Many people are probably aware of the number of folks who come to opioid addiction through legitimate prescriptions and then get hooked that way.
“We’ve also looked, as Senate Bill 1 does, to looks at stiffer penalties through a law enforcement perspective.
“I wish I could tell you that the cavalry’s coming and that there’s hope, we’ve done a lot and we’re seeing some success. But in my own community of Tipp City we’re seeing more deaths than a year ago and there was more a year ago than there was two years ago.”
Beagle also talked about a $20 million state initiative to explore long-term technology-based solutions to addiction problems.
In response to comments from Council Member Tyler Starline about the growing number of addiction cases, Beagle said he hopes local areas that form coalitions and partnerships may be able to turn the tide locally and then the state can try to replicate those programs on a bigger level.
Beagle also answered questions from Shaw and Council Member Nancy Byrge about the Montgomery County Developmental Center, which is schedule to be closed. He said the state currently does not have any plans for the property.
Beagle wasn’t the only visitor to council Monday night. Pam Whited, operations manager of Suez Water in Huber Heights, gave a detailed report about the city’s water system. The city contracts with Suez to operated its water system.
Council also heard from resident Theresa Darr, who said the city is in violation of the state’s open records law. Darr said she has submitted five requests to the city, dating as far back as nine months ago, concerning businesses applying for zoning changes in the city. She said she is investigating improper use of the city’s zoning application process and presented council with another written request for information at the meeting.
Darr said she believed the city was withholding some information because it feared facing litigation if it were made public.
City Law Director Jerry McDonald replied that all requests for public records have received replies and he would look into the request Darr brought to the meeting Monday. City Clerk of Council Anthony Rodgers said the city has a special counsel representing it in this case and said the attorney told the city it was in full compliance with the requests. Mayor Tom McMasters said there is an appeals process available through the court of claims.
Reach Dave Lindeman at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.