Council: Church pastor protests pot license application
The Nome Common Council turned an objection to a pot dealership at the old library and museum building over to the state at its regular meeting Monday evening.
The Council received a letter from Craig Colvin protesting an initial application filed with the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office by Gary Evans, to open Grass Station 49.
Colvin gave the reason that intended pot site is within 500 feet of a church—a space rented in the Old Federal Building on Front Street for meetings of The Nome United Pentecostal Church, of which Colvin is pastor.
According to discussion at the Council March 25, the City codes do not have a law forbidding pot sales within 500 feet of a church. That is a state law, according to John K. Handeland, interim city manager.
The Council receives notification of applications from local concerns wanting to open a shop or renew liquor licenses, but does not exercise its right of written protest unless a local entity protests the granting of a license. “There is nothing in our ordinance,” Handeland told the Council. “In the past, if the City objected, it was not on the basis of location, but on tax compliance or something of that sort.”
“It sounds like a gray area to me,” Councilman Mark Johnson remarked.
The situation did not sound fair to Councilman Doug Johnson. The purchasers of the museum-library building at 110 Front Street said ahead of time what they were doing with it, now another group was moving in within 500 feet after the fact, he said.
“In February last year, they were meeting on Sixth Avenue. They moved downtown in October,” Doug Johnson said. Either they didn’t do their homework, or someone is playing games. It is not fair. “It seems to me an issue for the state to take up,” he said.
The Council moved on to another topic on the agenda.
The Council delayed an ordinance enabling the City administration to form and appoint members to a public safety commission. Lisa Ellanna walked to the podium for public comment while she spoke to a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union. The measure was due for second reading and final passage; however, resources offered by the ACLU had not been sought, according to Ellanna. Handeland corroborated there had been confused communications.
She had sent a scathing note to the ACLU, Ellanna said, but found out that he had not heard from the City’s attorney until less than a week ago.
“We did send to ACLU and ask if they had suggestions,” Handeland said. “We asked last week when we found out they hadn’t contacted Brooks [Chandler].”
Darlene Trigg and Keith Morrison spoke during public comment also, urging the Council to postpone second reading and vote on the ordinance pending more work on the design for the public safety commission.
“This has never been done in Alaska,” Morrison said, adding that he did not think the City’s attorney, Brooks Chandler had “brought very much to the table” in that space. Morrison referred to the Feb. 18 meeting for which the City had retained Chandler to help lay the legal foundation for the commission.
The commission represents an attempt to promote and foster communication between the public and the City’s public safety department, along with encouraging the highest ethical standards in the public safety department. Establishment of the commission aims to promote quality law enforcement services with sensitivity, cultural understanding and racial equity. The current language of the ordinance setting up the public safety commission specifies seven members appointed by the mayor, plus the police chief and city manager as ex officio, nonvoting members. The Council would confirm the mayor’s appointments. A person would be barred from serving on the commission if the person had been: Employed by the Nome Police Department within the past two year; Convicted of a felony within the last 10 years; Convicted of a misdemeanor involving acts of sexual assault or domestic violence within the past two years; Convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving acts of moral turpitude within the past two years.
The ordinance also says the mayor must attempt to have the membership composition reflect the cultural makeup of the community.
Ellanna told the Council she thought NPD Chief Bob Estes was doing a good job.“We have a good police chief,” she said. “I don’t think seven officers are enough. I think he needs 10.”
In other business, a bid for renovation of the restrooms at Anvil Charter Science Academy came in about $100,000 over the budget allocation. Councilman Jerald Brown urged the City to rebid the job after the design was modified, adding that the Nome Public Schools’ and charter school’s administrations had not been involved in the design.
An e-mail from Lisa Leeper of ACSA explained that there was need for a remodeling of both girls’ and boys’ bathrooms, each of which had only one toilet fixture for the group of about 60 students. The limited facilities meant students had to ask to go to the restroom during class and miss out on education.
“We are at the minimum going to rebid it,” Handeland said. The City needs to consult the City’s engineer concerning required codes and quickly consult with users and get the project out to bid, Brown advocated. The remodel of the charter school restrooms has been on the planning bench for years.
Ken Morton, assistant utility manager, presented two resolutions for Council approval. The action to accept the loans from the Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation would save the City hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next two years. The loans replace existing USDA loans with lower cost money. The ADEC has the Alaska Clean Water Fund and the Alaska Drinking Water Fund loan programs with low interest, terms of up to 20 years and no prepayment penalties. The Council approved a loan for the drinking water portion of the higher interest USDA loan for $775,000 to save $350,000 in finance charges over 20 years.
Next, the Council approved a $520,000 loan from the Alaska Drinking Water Fund, refinancing the wastewater portion of the higher interest USDA loan to save $225,000 in finance charges over 20 years.
The actions reduced interest from a range of 4.25 percent to 4.875 percent through USDA to 1.75 percent through the ADEC loans.
The Council adopted an ordinance to adopt the updated Port of Nome Tariff 15, with a promise to look at it later in the season for rate increases.
“Most studies, whether accurate or not, point out our rates do not match expenses,” Councilman Doug Johnson said. “We have potentially large decisions to be made regarding port expansion.
“The money won’t come from what we are charging now,” he added.
The Council set the dates for the Board of Equalization for May 1 through 3.
Question: “What about Gov. Michael Dunleavy’s budget roadshow slated for Wednesday, March 27, that is sponsored by Americans for Prosperity?” Councilwoman Jennifer Reader wanted to know.
Would the Council go?
AFP is a politically conservative organization funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David.
“Do I have to sign a release as a Council member?” she asked. “I don’t know how many are going or not going, should I sign up? Anybody want to share that.”
Was the Council supposed to attend, some wondered. “Not having a quorum of the Council is a better idea,” Handeland said. The meeting was privately sponsored, but a quorum of the Council would make it a public meeting for the purpose of Sunshine laws, or there would be ramifications as an unadvertised meeting of the Council.
“I signed up,” Councilman Mark Johnson said. He added that visits of the governor and state employees are few and far between.
“There won’t be an opportunity for the public to comment,” Brown said. He had looked at the AFP website and the Americans for Prosperity Alaska chapter are coming to present their platform. The governor is an invited guest, he said.
“I’ll give you my short answer,” Councilman Adam Martinson said. “I am not going.”
According to the rules set down by AFP, attendees must sign up ahead of time. They must sign a release allowing their photo and video likeness to be used by AFP as they wish.
He was going to attend, Brown said, “only if I don’t have to sign in.”
He was going to try to schedule a meeting with Dunleavy at City Hall before the meeting at Old St. Joe’s, Mayor Richard Beneville said.
“And I’ll probably go to the meeting.”