Council disperses NSEDC community benefit share
In Monday’s regular Nome Common Council meeting, the council passed in second reading amended budgets for several municipal funds, including the general fund, school debt service, special revenue, capital projects, construction capital projects and the Port of Nome budget and capital projects fund.
The agenda item dealing with the distribution of $100,000 from the end of year NSEDC community benefit share took up the lion share of the discussions. A work session, attended only by three council members, the mayor and the city manager took place on Wednesday. (See related story on page 5). The Council earmarked half of the $200,000 NSEDC CBS funds for youth-centered community projects. With recommendations from the work session in front of them, the Council went about divvying up the $100,000 pie: $4,502.82 for the Checkpoint Bike Shop; $ 5,666.67 Checkpoint Youth Center; $8,666.67 for new ramp at the Nome Boys and Girls Club; $10,000 NCC-Camp Crave; $6,000 for the Nome Community Center’s Children’s Home; $15,000 for two youth programs; $3,000 Nome Girls youth basketball; $ 24,663.80 for Nome Beltz High School concession stand; $2,500 Nome Beltz Culture Club; $10,000 for Last Frontier Eye Care and $10,000 to the Nome Winter Sports Association.
Discussion centered on an amendment to scrap the funds requested for a gym divider and a video board at the gym – with concurrence of NBHS athletic director Pat Callahan—and roll the $16,497 toward the building and remodeling of a new concession stand, which in turn will help Nome youth generate money from concession sales for their programs.
Another point of discussion centered on Last Frontier Eye Care, a new optometry business in Nome. Councilwoman Jennifer Reader voiced her reluctance to hand community benefit shares to a for-profit business, albeit with a focus on youth. Mayor Handeland explained that the business intends to start a non-profit to help underserved children with eye care, but that this non-profit is not yet up and running. Reader also wanted to know how many children would be served, but no data was made available to answer the question. In the end, all council members voted unanimously on the distribution of funds.
In the City Manager’s report, Glenn Steckman said the City is working with Alaska Housing to get rent relief to Nome renters who struggle to make rent or utility payments due to COVID-19. The City plans to coordinate with the Nome Visitor Center to set up a computer there to allow people without internet access to apply for the aid online.
He also reported that last week Nome had unexpected visitors, top brass from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do a site visit to the Port of Nome. Mayor John Handeland and Fire Chief Jim West Jr. took them on a tour of the Port and Nome.
In regards to COVID-19 vaccinations, he said that Nome can reopen again and even return to two flights a day when herd immunity through vaccination is reached. He said if 700 more eligible Nomeites would receive a vaccine, Nome would be near the 90 percent herd immunity needed to fully reopen Nome. “Vaccinations are the key to really get the city fully open again,” he said. “But facemasks will not go away anytime soon. We still encourage their wearing in city buildings.”
In other news, he said that there are still $254,000 left over from CARES Act funds. He suggested to get another phase of relief out to the community in April, due to the lack of economic activity that usually comes with Iditarod. This year, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race will not end in Nome.
Steckman reported that nearly $800,000 of CARES Act funds were spent during phase 5 and about $250 to 260,000 in phase 6.