WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday voted to authorize the city to join a lawsuit against opiate drug companies, accepting $33,000 from Colby College to pay for a new police cruiser and approving union contracts with public works and parks and recreation employees.

City officials say police, fire and other officials are required to respond every day to problems that arise because of painkiller addiction and the city has had to shift resources that otherwise could have been used for city improvements.

Last year, 376 people in Maine died from overdoses and 123 were caused by pharmaceutical opioids. Three people in Waterville died of overdoses in 2017 and naxolone, or Narcan, was used 33 times to treat the overdoses.

Opiate drug companies have enjoyed enormous profits with the sales of opiate drugs, promoting them relentlessly among physicians and paying doctors to promote these drugs at conferences, while failing repeatedly to tailor the drugs to make abuse impossible, according to city officials.

As part of the vote, councilors authorized City Manager Michael Roy and City Solicitor Bill Lee to engage the services of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, of New York City, and Trafton, Matzen, Belleau & Frenette LLP, of Auburn, on behalf of the city for prosecuting legal claims against manufacturers and distributors of opioids arising out of the manufacturers’ and distributors’ fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of the drugs.

Before the council voted 6-0 to approve joining the lawsuit — Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, was absent from the meeting — Mayor Nick Isgro said it is important the city join the lawsuit now so it is not superseded if the state decides to sue the companies later on.

“This is a very serious issue and there’s not many communities or families not touched by the opiate crisis,” Isgro said.

He said he hoped the council would approve the request.

“There is no financial risk to the city to do this, so I hope the council looks favorably upon this,” he said.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, concurred.

“Municipal resources have been stretched razor thin because of this,” he said.

As part of the lawsuit, municipalities would seek to be reimbursed for resources spent on the opioid crisis, according to Roy.

In other matters, the council voted 6-0 to approve collective bargaining agreements with Teamsters Local 340 for a two-year term. The union represents public works and Parks and Recreation Department workers. The proposed contracts represent a 3 percent increase in salaries.

Councilors voted 5-0, with Councilor Lauren Lessing, D-Ward 3, abstaining, to accept $33,000 from Colby College for the purchase of a new police cruiser. Lessing said she was abstaining because she is employed by Colby. Isgro thanked Colby President David Greene and Doug Terp, Colby’s vice president for administration, for recognizing the city’s need and offering to buy the cruiser.

“Colby stepped in without being asked and offered to make this purchase, and we’re very thankful for that,” Isgro said.

Police Chief Joseph Massey also thanked Colby officials, saying it was a great thing and it is important police vehicles be safe.

“It’s critical that we trade those cruisers in every three years,” he said.

Councilor Nick Champagne, R-Ward 5, agreed, saying he hopes it is not the only gift the city sees from entities the city supports.

“I think this is a great gesture on behalf of Colby College and welcomed by the city,” Champagne said.

The council approved a food license for Pine Tree State Five VII, doing business as Five Guys burgers and fries, which plans to open in the former Friendly’s restaurant building on Main Street.

An official with Five Guys said the business is looking to open in late January or early February, an announcement that drew kudos from Isgro and others.

The council appointed Roy, Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, and Mayhew to the Kennebec Regional Development Authority to replace two members who resigned, Charles Gaunce and Marc Pitman. KRDA is a consortium of 24 towns that helped to build FirstPark in Oakland. KRDA, of which Roy is president, is governed by a general assembly and has a 12-member executive board, Roy said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17