Seminole City Hall

Seminole City Hall

SEMINOLE — This city may be due tens of thousands of dollars from a nationwide settlement with drug companies, but leaders here are questioning whether they should accept the funds.

City officials wondered whether the cost of administering the money may offset the amount received, and how they could accept it.

Florida and other states’ attempts to claw back from the effects of the opioid epidemic from pharmaceutical companies is “nearing the point of settlement,” City Attorney Jay Daigneault told the City Council May 25. Florida is projected to garner between $250 and $320 million, he said, which will be shared with cities and counties around the state. If Seminole signs on to the allocation agreement, the city could receive between about $10,000 and $18,500 per year, paid out over seven to 10 years.

Under terms of the settlement, the money can only be used in certain ways, Daigneault cautioned: drug abatement and education and substance abuse treatment programs and services. These restrictions “aren’t really targeted to what the city provides,” he said.

A conference call was scheduled to answer questions from local authorities, the attorney said, including whether cities could receive the funds and pass the money onto a local nonprofit or another government agency that dealt with those drug-related issues.

City Manager Ann Toney-Deal said federal requirements for reporting how the money was used were “onerous” and would take up a great deal of staff time. She recommended not accepting the money.

Council member James Olliver agreed with Toney-Deal, saying the city should accept the money only if it could contract out the services and assure that Seminole residents could benefit.

Council member Chris Burke disagreed, saying the city should accept the allocation.

Burke, a sergeant with the Largo Police Department, noted that “probably nobody in this room has seen more dead people than Chief Burford (Seminole fire chief Heather Burford) and myself.” He suggested the money could be used to provide mental health services for first responders who witness deaths resulting from opioid addiction.

Toney-Deal questioned if the money would offset worker compensation costs for the first responders.

The council took no action, but Mayor Leslie Waters asked council members to come up with their own lists of pros and cons about accepting the funds.

Daigneault said the council would have to decide by early June.