Nome Common Council doles out more CARES Act funds
The Nome Common Council met for a work session on a program to incentivize homeowners to beautify their houses and for a discussion on a ban on plastic bags, prior to the regularly schedule meeting. As a discussion starting point, City Manager Glenn Steckman put forth a proposal that put $150,000 on the table for incentives of $10,000 for two-story homes and businesses and $5,000 for single story buildings with eligibility of reimbursing paint, roof and sidings. The funds are not CARES Act money, but are tax dollars, Councilman Jerald Brown clarified. After an hour-long debate, the Council did not agree on what the program would entail, how much the individual grants would be or other particulars. Chamber of Commerce board president Scot Henderson said that the program’s funds would be exhausted very fast, with approximately enough funds for 30 buildings. “Maybe you underestimate the demand, there is a lot of deferred maintenance out there,” Henderson cautioned.
In the ten minutes left for a discussion on a potential ban on plastic bags, the Council and Henderson came to an informal proposal to make and distribute cloth bags to encourage Nomeites using those instead of the store’s plastic bags.
For the regular meeting, all council members were present in person at council chambers.
The Council voted in first reading on an ordinance to purchase the empty lot on Division Street and Front Street from the Boucher family for price of $203,000.
A vote on the adoption of the Historic Preservation Plan was delayed. In public comments, Austin Ahmasuk asked the Council to send the Historic Preservation Plan back to the drawing board. Ahmasuk said that the plan woefully lacks in acknowledgement and consideration of Native historic features and culture. The Council did not pass the resolution and instead voted to delay the adoption of the Historic Preservation Plan until concerns of the missing Native historical context are addressed.
The Council in first reading passed an ordinance for a land use permit for the non-exclusive use by the Nome Rotary Club of East End Park.
Two resolutions doling out more CARES Act funds were unanimously approved. Phase seven addresses needs of the hospitality industry, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bakeries, hotels, inns and B&Bs that suffered economically during the pandemic. Eligible businesses must have had less gross sales in 2020 compared to 2019 and are eligible to a maximum of $10,000. The City has allocated $170,000 to that tranche of COVID funds.
The second resolution awards a $500 assistance grant to artisans, carvers and sculptors who have economically suffered from the lack of tourists associated with the Iditarod and summer tourism. The City allocated a total of $16,000 for that program. The application deadline for both phase seven assistance programs is August 27.
The Council also voted on offering a “bounty” on junk cars and vehicles to be hauled by the City to the landfill. To incentivize the removal of junk cars, the City is prepared to pay $50 per car or truck and $25 for ATVs or snowmachines.
The Council also voted on entering into a contract with Knik Construction to replace the concrete in front of the Fire Hall.
Salina Hargis of Hawaii, sister to Joseph Balderas, who has been missing since June 2016, addressed the Council with the request to spread the word in the community to find any leads that may shed light on her brother’s disappearance.
In other business, the city manager received a letter from Norton Sound Health Corporation seeking to exempt NSHC’s patient hostel and the new Liitfik Wellness Center from property taxes. The amount at stake is nearly $93,000 in taxes. Bryant Hammond, City Clerk, said the patient hostel had been historically not exempt from property taxes and the new wellness center is not related to hospital functions per se. The city’s attorney confirmed Hammond was procedurally correct. Mayor Handeland put it to the Council to act on the request, but lacking a motion to reverse the property taxation, NSHC’s appeal failed.
City Manager Glenn Steckman said that in light of the current Delta variant outbreak of COVID-19 in the region, he encourages mask wearing in indoor places. “I’m encouraging, not telling,” he said. Council member Doug Johnson echoed the message, saying that the City should encourage mask wearing in indoor public settings. During the meeting, however, nobody except for one member of the media, sported a mask.
In the second round of public comments, Stephanie Nielson requested the City hire a grant writer or train employees to become grant writers so that grant applications for needed equipment would be more successful. She said she put in for a much needed side-by-side vehicle for the ambulance department but her grant was denied.
In Mayor’s comments, John Handeland announced the news that Judy Martinson unexpectedly died last weekend. “She did a lot for Nome and will be missed,” he said.