NSEDC board tightens rules of its loan and grant programs
The Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation in their second quarter board of directors meeting in Nome voted to grant a $150,000 energy fund request for Shaktoolik to replace meters bases and other energy upgrades in the community.
The board also acted on recommendations from the Community Benefits Department headed by Paul “Bebucks” Ivanoff that impact the way grants are dispersed. Ivanoff suggested to change the Small Business Initiative grants competition to be held every other year, instead of every year as in the past. The initiative aims to infuse capital up to $35,000 to startup businesses in the region. Other changes to the program are that the SBI grants are limited to three award winners, that delinquent participants in NSEDC’s bulk fuel program are not eligible, that winners need to undergo financial training and that an award winner who purchases vehicles, i.e. a boat, truck, car or trailer, with the grant but does not start the business within two years has to sign over the title of the vehicle or trailer or return the money. The board voted in favor of adopting the changes.
Also, Ivanoff recommended to tighten the rules for eligibility to participate in the Outside Entity Fund, Large Infrastructure improvements, Small Business Initiative and the consolidated bulk fuel loans. Those who participated but are delinquent in the bulk fuel loans are not eligible any longer until they’re caught up to participate in the OEF, Large Infrastructure improvement grant or in the SBI competitive process.
Board members expressed their hesitation in enforcing the hard line approach. “I hate to slam the door of opportunity on them and put them in a corner that it is hard to come out of,” said White Mountain board member Dan Harrelson. However, the board voted to enact Ivanoff’s recommendations.
This year’s buying prices for NSEDC’s bulk fuel program were released. Before taxes are added, the price for diesel is $2.13 per gallon and for unleaded gas is $2.16 per gallon. NSEDC CEO Janis Ivanoff added that NSEDC does not control the mark up for how much vendors end up selling the fuel. “We hold the right to publish the amount of the fuel purchase,” she said. Nome representative Pat Johanson commented that the program is designed for the benefit of the community, not the benefit of one fuel vendor.
In the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, staff recommended to specify the hour of the candidacy filing deadline. This year, the communities of Brevig Mission, Little Diomede, Shaktoolik, Unalakleet and White Mountain hold elections to select their NSEDC member representative. The elections are held on October 4, coinciding with municipal elections. The filing period for candidacy is between August 29 and September 9. The candidacy packet must be received by Sept. 9 at 3 p.m.
The board voted to enact that 3 p.m. is the deadline hour.
NSEDC Chief Financial Officer Rick Walicki informed the board of the financial state of NSEDC. He pointed out that the biggest driver in increased revenue compared to last year was a recent sale of 775,000 pounds of frozen salmon to the tune of nearly $1 million. He reported less operating costs associated with the cod vessel Glacier Bay that is undergoing repairs and maintenance for $1.4 million. He said it is too early to say how much of the repair funds will be capitalized expenses that can be depreciated and how much of it will be chalked up as repair expenses. The Glacier Bay is a freezer longliner fishing and processing cod in the Bering Sea. NSEDC’s for-profit subsidiary Siu works with Clipper Seafoods to manage the vessel’s operations and maintenance.
The board went into executive sessions for the entire Siu report. The board also went into a executive session on the Unatuuq Inc., a consortium that owns Pilgrim Hot Springs and that NSEDC is still a part of. The board also went into executive session after a heated exchange took place between the Southern Norton Sound Seafood Plant’s Middy Johnson and some board members, who complained about delayed and untimely tender services to their communities.
The board will hold a special meeting in Unalakleet on September 8 to discuss vessel options and to look at land sites for the expansion of the Unalakleet offices.