Council extends Emergency Ordinance until January 2022
By Diana Haecker
In their regular meeting on Monday, the Nome Common Council unanimously voted to extend an emergency ordinance until January 2022. This marked the second reading of the ordinance, which included public comment, but none was given. In past extensions of the emergency measure, some public members commented either for or against the measure which vests the City Manager with considerable power to quickly respond to a public health emergency caused by the novel coronavirus. The argument made by Mayor John Handeland during the first reading of the ordinance two weeks ago was to give city leadership the tool in the toolbox to swiftly respond to a COVID emergency. On March 17, 2020 the ordinance was adopted and since then extended five times. The ordinance gives the city manager power to control emergency measures for city staff and buildings as well as controlling “ingress and egress into Nome, the movement of persons within the area and the occupancy of premises.” The ordinance also stipulates that the city manager must report to the City Council in their next meeting on his actions taken. The Council then has the option to ratify the actions taken, vacate them or amend them. The ordinance also provides for a mechanism of enforcement. Violations of orders made in the scope of the emergency declaration are punishable with a penalty of $500 per offense plus a state surcharge.
The ordinance expires midnight January 31, 2022 unless rescinded or extended by the Council.
The Council was satisfied with the efforts of the Historic Preservation Commission to hear Austin Ahmasuk’s concerns of insufficient content relating to Native Alaskan history in the Historic Preservation Plan. Mayor Handeland instructed the city clerk to bring the resolution back before the Council at the next meeting.
In other business, the Council passed a resolution appointing five election judges and clerks, and setting their compensation, for the upcoming Oct. 5 municipal elections.
The Council also passed a resolution authorizing an agreement between the City of Nome and the Nome Community Center, which operates the XYZ Senior Center out of a building owned by the City adjacent to City Hall. City Manager Glenn Steckman said that the agreement used to be a handshake-gentleman’s agreement and he wanted to formalize it in a written agreement, which hasn’t been done since 1994. The City charges NCC no rent as the XYZ Senior Center provides a valuable service to the town’s elders. The agreement also commits the Council to annually appropriate funds to pay for heat, electricity, water, sewer and garbage services. The city also commits to maintain fixtures such as freezers, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems. The resolution passed unanimously.
The council also approved a resolution to designate Chip Leeper as acting city manager from Nov. 21 to Nov. 29.
NJUS manager Ken Morton reported that the annual fuel delivery for the NJUS tanks is ongoing. It started on Sept. 14 and he expected the entire fuel delivery to be wrapped up by Tuesday, Sept. 28. He reported that powerplant foreman Marty Silvernail announced his retirement and that Lucas Baumann will be his successor. Looking up towards Banner Peek, folks will notice that the smaller Integrity wind turbines that have been dysfunctional have been removed. The platforms were taken down and some of them were turned into cell towers. Morton also announced a Moonlight Springs pressurization project to begin June 2022. The system will be optimized and will improve the water delivery to consumers as well as save NJUS significant costs in electricity.
City Manager Glen Steckman reported that the fall cleanup campaign was a success as 129 individuals hauled trash to the Monofil, 13 dump loads were taken to the landfill and 22 vehicles were disposed of and their owners received the bounty. “The bounty will stay in place until Nov. 1 or until the snow falls, whichever comes first.” Steckman informed the Council that Mimi Farley has been hired to join the city’s finance team. He also relayed that there is a significant uptick in COVID cases of which 70 percent of patients are unvaccinated. “We watch this closely and see if we need to require face masks,” Steckman said. Currently, the city only strongly “urges” businesses and churches to reinstitute masking up. Testing at the airport is also still on a voluntary basis. Face masks are available for free at City Hall, the Rec Center and the Post Office, including masks for children.
As for the seventh phase of CARES Act funding, Steckman reported that the deadline was extended to Oct. 1 and that there are $83,000 left to be distributed to businesses or artisans and carvers who have suffered economic hardship due to the Iditarod not finishing in Nome this year.
Finally, Port Director Joy Baker was present via Zoom to report another delay in the barge ramp repair project. Still encountering difficulties to de-water the project site to install the concrete ramp, the deadline to complete the repair is moved to Oct. 4 and the following day to allow boats to haul out for winter. “We need the ramp,” said Baker. “We cannot have haul out without the ramp.”
The Common Council then went into executive session to discuss legal issues that can have adverse impacts on city finances. No action was taken after the executive session.