Nome Common Council votes to tear down Polaris ruins
Remnants of the historic Polaris Hotel will disappear soon. A fire took one life and demolished the combination hotel, package liquor store and bar in the early hours of Oct. 31.
The Nome Volunteer Fire Dept. fought the fire for more than six hours and had to return for days to extinguish hot spots flaring up.
Now the site presents a serious danger to children and adults scavenging for surviving bottles of booze.
In summary, Nome Police Department Chief John Papasodora told the Council that immediate cleanup following the fire would not have been soon enough to eliminate the serious hazard.
“There is alcohol on the premises. It is an extreme hazard,” Papasodora said. “Some kid’s going to get in and they are going to get hurt.”
John Handeland, Nome’s utility manager, told the Council had concern for wind-launched sheet metal and other ruins flying into overhead power lines.
“Tear the damn thing down,” Councilman Stan Andersen said during the discussion. “Solve the Chief’s problem; solve the public’s problem. Twenty thousand dollars is probably cheaper than a lawsuit on somebody’s kid getting hurt.”
Andersen made the motion to declare the site an emergency, allowing the City to oversee removal by private contractors. That move capped a discussion earlier in the meeting over who, City staff or private contractors, and with whose equipment the cleanup would cart away the mishmash of ashes, cast iron, broken glass and burned roof and other building parts. All agreed the bill for the cleanup should go to the insurance company retained by the owners, who have left town for the winter.
The state Fire Marshal, the insurance inspectors and the City have released the site for cleanup, according to Tom Moran, city manager. Watch for front-end loaders and dump trucks that will be working at the corner of Bering Street and Lomen Avenue.
In other business, the Council introduced an ordinance to amend the City law to clear the way for the Alaska Dept. of Corrections to place untreated sex offenders in the Seaside Center a halfway house situated in downtown Nome on Front Street next door to Milano’s Pizzeria and across the street from the post office. GEO Care, a private corrections facility operator, has a permit from the City to operate Seaside Center under a law that forbids placement of untreated sex offenders in the facility.
Alaska Dept. of Corrections personnel attended the meeting— mental health program coordinator Adam Rutherford and Ed Webster, DOC criminal justice planning and sex offender management coordinator. Trey Watson, GEO Care executive, and Bob Weston, Seaside facility superintendent also attended. All took questions and gave information. The state officials and GEO Care executive stressed that sex offenders are currently being released untreated and entering the community, so what’s not to like about establishing a treatment program?
Seaside and GEO Care staff vowed that sex offenders housed at Seaside would be under secure supervision 24 hours, seven days a week.
The Council discussed the issue of sex offenders housed in town in a pre-meeting work session Monday night before the ordinance came up on the action agenda.
Councilmen Lew Tobin, Jerald Brown and Doug Johnson voted for the change that would allow a proposed sex offender program at Seaside; Councilmen Mark Johnson, Adam Martinson and Andersen voted against the motion to amend the law. Mayor Richard Beneville broke the 3 to 3 tie with a ‘yes’ vote. The ordinance that would change the law now goes to the next regular Council meeting for second reading, discussion and a vote on final passage.
The new ordinance contains the following requirement:
“An agreement by applicant that they will not take for placement any untreated sex offenders, except for those actively receiving treatment and released untreated sex offenders considered ‘in transit,’ who may be temporarily placed in the correctional facility due to inclement weather or flight schedules which prohibit the same day transfer of offender.”
He was OK with the program, Mark Johnson said, but establishing the program in the downtown Seaside address concerned him, he said. Sandy Martinson, AMCC superintendent, stressed that the program would transfer carefully screened candidates for the sex offender treatment program to Seaside Center for the last six months of their sentence. Offenders who do not show appreciation by participating in the sex offender treatment would have to return to AMCC, a higher security facility, Martinson said.
In other business, the Council:
• Recognized by unanimous resolution former Councilman Thomas Sparks for nearly 20 years’ service to the City of Nome on Nome Common Council and Nome Planning Commission.
• Unanimously approved a three-year contract with City employees represented by City of Nome Employees Association. The last three-year contract provided a two percent raise per year; the new contract provides one five-percent raise for the three years.
• Approved three appointments made to advisory panels by Mayor Richard Beneville. The appointments concern incumbents whose terms expired—Charles Lean and Jim West Jr. for Nome Port Commission and Larry Pedersen for the Nome Planning Commission. The Council also unanimously changed the law concerning appointees for the Port Commission. Anyone on the Nome area road system may serve, whereas the law has confined service opportunities to those within Nome’s city limits. The City is looking for one more person to fill a vacancy on the Port Commission.