FOREST HEIGHTS — During their last meeting on Aug. 21, the Forest Heights City Council approved several resolutions including various construction projects around the town, their recent annexation of nearby land and entering into a lawsuit about the opioid crisis.
The main conversation of the night centered on the council authorizing a resolution to retain special legal counsel regarding a public nuisance that adversely affects the town.
The nuisance, in this case, has to do with opioid addiction within the town. According to the town’s resolution, the mayor and town will be jointly authorized to retain the legal services of three law firms that are experienced in litigation regarding opioid addiction, abuse and morbidity that impacts on the town. The law firms would advise and provide legal counsel to the town concerning a litigation matter that is pending in Maryland State Court.
The case originated from an opioid case in the circuit court in Carroll County where the county sued opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers because of the adverse effects on their county, said Forest Heights Chief Legal Counsel Kevin Best. The case mirrors a federal class-action lawsuit in Ohio that involves other states and counties, including Prince George’s County.
The resolution would authorize the town, along with other municipal corporations in the state, to engage with attorneys from California and Maryland to prosecute the case in Maryland against the opioid manufacturers. If the lawsuit is won, the town would be able to obtain a damage reward for their monetary losses for the cost of providing services regarding opioid use.
“This is an epidemic throughout this state,” said Best who helped arrange and coordinate the town’s involvement in the lawsuit as their legal counsel. “People are dying every day from opioid addiction and overdoses, and it taxes the public safety services that are provided by the state and the counties and the municipalities in the state.”
The town would pay nothing to enter the lawsuit, and if the lawsuit goes in its favor, the town will be eligible to receive a damage award of $100-$500 per resident with a small percentage going to the lawyers involved. Best urged the council to approve the resolution if they felt that the town suffers from the crisis.
From the perspective of the police, the opioid crisis does harm the town, Forest Heights Police Chief Anthony Rease added. In the case of an overdose, the police would be dispatched and do a report, confiscate the drugs and follow up with an investigation.
“We may not get it as great as other jurisdictions, but there is some type of effect on the town,” Rease said.
The council then voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
They then approved a resolution having to do with a plan to annex certain tax-empty properties located north of the town. This includes property near MD 210 and certain nearby access roads and a segment of Livingston Road up to the Washington, D.C. border.
Recently, Forest Heights had approved through the Court of Appeals of Maryland the annexation of land that doubled the size of the town with the goal of enhancing the quality of life by expanding land uses and amenities that fall within the town’s corporate limits, as well as exploring opportunities for future economic and other development, said Town Administrator Linwood Robinson.
The new land, generally located along the southern and western boundary of the town, contains landmarks such as the Oxon Hill Methodist Church, Southlawn Local Park, John Hanson Montessori School and Oxon Hill High School. Officially approved in June, it was the seventh expansion in the town’s history.
The town of Forest Heights will hold a public hearing regarding the resolution in September during their regular council meeting.
Additionally, the council approved two construction-related items awarding and passing a contract for the company AB Consultants to repair the sidewalk on North Huron Drive for $5,221 and a contract for Choice Concrete Construction, Inc. to repair the front steps of the Forest Heights Municipal Building.
Finally, the council approved extending a consulting services agreement for another annual term with Greenwell Consulting Group, LLC, who assists with obtaining Local Development Impact Fees associated with slot machines and other gaming revenues.