State to apply emergency patch to airport runway
The Council unanimously passed a resolution alerting the state Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner John McKinnon and Gov. Mike Dunleavy to the emerging situation with the east-west runway at Nome Airport that has inconvenienced travelers in and out of Nome recently. John Handeland, acting city manager, told the Council he had met with DOT maintenance and operations and learned that they would be putting down a temporary sand and ice slurry to serve through spring. A durable repair job had been bid by Knik Construction for the coming summer, Handeland said. “This resolution emphasizes what we need,” he said, and added that in a couple of years, the state planned to repave the entire airport. As a result of deterioration in November, the useful length of the runway has been reduced by 1,000 feet. This reduced operational length plus unusual winter thaw-freezing throughout the state and the Nome area degrades braking area for aircraft and has impacted scheduled commercial jet service, resulting in routine back-to-back flight cancellations, which is negatively affecting health, economy, and welfare of Nome as a transportation hub for surrounding communities.
In other business, Handeland included in the Council packet a copy of a letter to business owners and landlords reminding them to take snow cleared from parking lots to the City’s snow dump off Greg Kruschek Avenue, rather than piling the white stuff up in streets, alleys and intersections. Private individuals may clear snow and push it to the City berms in the middle of the street as long as they do it before the City hauls the berms to the snow dump.
During the citizens’ comments period, Lisa Ellanna brought forth a letter received by the City too late for Council packet inclusion. The letter to Melanie Bahnke, CEO of Kawerak, Inc., and to Richard Beneville, mayor, dated Dec. 2, over the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, addresses a request for assistance to ensure justice for all victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes in the Bering Strait Region and for highlighting the need for the public to regain faith and trust in the Nome Police Dept.
The letter responds to the call for assistance and the need to fill Alaska State Trooper vacancies, to fill case-load carrying vacancies at Office of Children’s Services and to supply additional staff for the Nome District Attorney’s Office. The solution for the DA’s office involves additional funding from the Legislature to hire additional staff for Kotzebue, so that Kotzebue cases currently handled by the Nome office can go back north, thus allowing more resources to handle local cases in the Nome office.
The number of vacancies at the AST post in Nome will shrink from three to two and staffing needs further analyzed.
OCS faces recruitment barriers in Nome, including low applicant pools, non-competitive wages, caseworker safety concerns and the inability to retain existing caseworkers due to the many challenges associated with the complex work of child welfare. OCS is addressing staffing issues through high level prioritization of recruitments and through letters of agreements that include hiring and retention bonuses for case-carrying staff who sign on to work in difficult-to-hire areas. Recruitment work groups are exploring methods for faster and more effective recruitment.
The deadline to submit requests and proposals to the City for a slice of the $167,000 NSEDC Community Benefit Share is Jan. 3 at 4 p.m. The Council will look over the requests at a work session preceding the regular meeting on Jan. 14.
Mayor Beneville reappointed Shane Smithhisler to his expiring seat on the Nome Port Commission.