Barnwell County Council debates joining opioid lawsuit
A request to join in a lawsuit against drug companies got mixed reactions from Barnwell County Council members during a special meeting Jan. 23.
The council had received a request from Sen. Brad Hutto and Rep. Lonnie Hosey to give their support to a lawsuit being brought by the state against drug companies as a result of the opioid crisis.
Chairman Lowell Jowers said their support would not cost the county anything.
Councilman Freddie Houston moved to support the issue, seconded by Harold Buckmon.
During discussion, Councilman Jerry Creech said, “I don’t particularly believe in lawsuits. The companies haven’t forced drugs down people’s throats. I just believe this is a frivolous lawsuit. I understand if someone breaks the law but I don’t see where the drug companies have done anything wrong.”
Buckmon said, “These things have caused a lot of detriment to our community. It is an epidemic.”
Jowers said, “I believe the drug companies are making money. It is also up to the doctors to control it. It is an epidemic and a bad epidemic.”
Councilman Don Harper queried, “How can we hold the drug companies responsible? Why should we? They are not in the business to addict people.”
Councilman Ben Kinlaw noted that drug companies spend billions of dollars going from concept to market. If you sue these companies, it will go into the cost and right back to the patients. What our representatives are doing is to be a part of it – it is an emotional experience.”
In a roll call vote, the measure passed 4-2-1. Supporting the motion were Jowers, Buckmon, Houston and David Kenner. Voting against were Creech and Harper. Kinlaw abstained.
The council adopted second reading of five fee in lieu of tax (FILOT) ordinances related to solar farms.
By a unanimous vote, the second reading passed for Blackville Solar, Blackville Solar II, Crossroads Solar, Edison Solar and Richardson Solar.
The documents state the annual FILOT payments would be: Blackville Solar - $21,600, Blackville Solar II - $180,000, Crossroads Solar - $201,000, Edison Solar - $45,000 and Richardson Solar - $36,000.
A third reading is required for adoption and changes could be made before final passage.
The council met in closed session for just over an hour to discuss personnel matters related to the Administrator’s Office.
Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. is slated to retire this year and the councilmen have been reviewing applications for the position.
Upon returning to open session the council reported no action had been taken.
Councilman Houston noted that they have narrowed down to four applicants to be interviewed.
A request for the names of the four applicants by the press was declined. Under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, all materials related to no fewer than three final applicants for a public job must be made public. In this case, there are four.