2018: Year in Review

January

Wisconsin man paroled from Anvil Mountain, faces extradition

Thirty-four year old Thomas Kehrberg’s parole date was set for January 11 and he was waiting for news on whether Wisconsin would extradite him. Kehrberg was on felony probation in Wisconsin when he traveled to Alaska to start a new life. In Anchorage he became part of the Campbell Creek homeless scene and met and fell in love with a woman from Unalakleet. They married and moved to the village where he was soon arrested on a domestic violence assault charge and sentenced to jail. A Fugitive From Justice hearing was scheduled for Jan 8. Wisconsin has indicated they want him back.

 

NJUS manager gets pay boost

The Board of Directors of the Nome Joint Utility System voted in October to sign a contract with John K. Handeland to continue for another two years as utility manager. Then on Dec. 19 the board decided to increase Handeland’s annual salary to $130,000. He has been with the utility for nineteen years. In related news NJUS listed $4.3 million for water and sewer infrastructure improvements on the City’s wish list for the soon to convene Alaska State Legislature.

 

Nome charities get $150,000 Community Benefit Share from NSEDC

The Nome Community Council divided up the money among eighteen recipients. The Iditarod Trail Committee got $10,000. ABDC tax program at the Nome Community Center received $1,500. NCC Camp Crave, $10,000. NCC XYZ Senior Center, $9,000 for new washers and dryers. $10,000 to the NCC food bank. $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs. NEST shelter got $2,000. Bering Sea Women’s Group received $10,000. Iron Dog Snow Machine Race got $5,000. $10,000 to the Nome Winter Sports Assoc. $5,000 to the Anvil City Science Academy Washington D.C. trip. $6,000 to the ACSA for ski equipment. $5,000 to the Checkpoint Youth Center. The Nome Nanooks Swim Team received $3,000. $5,600 went to PAWS for their neuter and spay program. $2,000 to SPARC, The ham radio organization, which is an essential communications link in times of emergency response situation. The Nome Preschool got $35,000. Junior High girls basketball program got $5,000.

 

Dr. O’Neill cleared by State Medical Board

The State Medical Board cleared Dr. Karen O’Neill, a physician for 41years with the Norton Sound Health Corporation, of accusations that she’d overprescribed opioid pain killers. After a thorough review the board concluded that she did not violate Unprofessional Conduct regulations.

 

Nome’s ice rink keeps kids busy

Young people in Nome have found the ice rink to be the place for fun in winter-time. The rink supplies skates, snacks, and hot chocolate thanks to the efforts of a handful of volunteers.

 

Norton Sound Health Corp. refuses to hire Nome-grown physician

The Norton Sound Health Corporation declined to hire Dr. Ben Head, son of former NSHC Medical Director Dr. David Head and grandson of Dr. Kitchener Head, who also was a physician at NHSC. Dr. Ben Head said to the Nugget that he was “devastated” and was not informed why he was not hired. NHSC CEO Angie Gorn as well as other top-level administrators declined to comment.

 

Alaska population down

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workplace Development estimated Alaska’s population to have declined by 2,629 people. Net migration out of the state was greater than migration in for the third year in a row. The Nome Census Area lost an estimated 64 people. Statistics show 224 births, 75 deaths, and net migration totaling minus 213. Most of those leaving the Nome Census Area move to the road system. In the official US Census of 1900 Nome had 12,488 residents, making it Alaska’s largest city. In 1909 the population was estimated to be 20,000.

 

Nomeites brave cold at Women’s March

Thirty-five people marched from the Post Office to Old St Joe’s in bitter cold to express strong disagreement with the Trump administration’s policies toward immigration, women’s rights, tax breaks to the wealthy, and LGBT rights. January 20 was the anniversary of Trump’s inaugural and the date of marches nationally and internationally.

 

Ravn employees charged with stealing computers headed to rural school districts

The U.S. Attorney for Alaska charged six Ravn employees with conspiracy, mail theft, and possession of stolen mail. The six, who worked at Ravn’s Anchorage facility, allegedly stole hundreds of computers headed to school districts via US Mail. Stolen goods included 343 Apple computers valued at $380,000. The Ravn crew stole mail headed to St. Mary’s, Mountain Village, Stebbins, Unalakleet, and other villages.

 

Savoonga family welcomes first NSHC baby of 2018

Rylan Curtis Pungowiyi arrived on January 7 as the first baby of the New Year for Norton Sound Health Corporation. The son of Patricia and Danny Pungowiyi joins three older brothers at home in Savoonga.  

 

February

Katherine Olson sentenced for peddling heroin

The Second District Superior Court sentenced Katherine Olson, 25, to five months time served and a three year suspended sentence for one count of distribution of heroin. 

 

Nome Kennel Club holds first race of the season

The Nome Kennel Club kicked off the 2018 season with a twenty-mile, ten-dog race on January 27. There was also an eight-dog eight-mile event for local mushers. Running the longer event were Nils Hahn, Stephanie Johnson, and Diana Haecker. Cynthia Barrand ran the eight-dog race. Start and finish for all the season’s races is at the city snow dump off Greg Kruschek Ave.

 

Alaska Delegation asks that regional basins be removed from oil and gas lease sale

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in support of a draft proposal program for Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing for 2019-2024. In the letter they requested the exclusion of the Hope Basin, Norton Basin, St. Matthew Hall, Navarin Basin, Aleutian Basin, Bowers Basin, the Aleutian Arc, St. George Basin, Shumagin, Kodiak, and the Gulf of Alaska. The letter encourages the Department of the Interior to consult all stakeholders. These waters are important subsistence areas and Native groups have been lobbying to have them protected.

 

Nome to invest $1.5 million in port feasibility study

With the Arctic ice cap shrinking, Nome’s dreams of becoming an important port have grown. An expansion of the Port of Nome to make it a deep water port would generate revenue from increased ship traffic. In late January the Nome Common Council passed a resolution authorizing the City of Nome to enter into a 50-50 cost sharing program with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the completion of a Port of Nome upgrade study. The study should be completed in around four years, according to port director Joy Baker.

 

Mushers demand resignation of ITC board president

What began as a failed drug test has spiraled into mistrust from Iditarod mushers and sponsors in the leadership and board of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. While the controversy over two-way communications and sled configuration have been an issue for several years, a drug test found Tramadol in Dallas Seavey’s dogs and the way the positive drug test was handled has raised the ire of the Iditarod Official Finishers Club. Mushers and sponsors demanded change and animal rights groups exploited the opportunity to further their agenda against mushing. A report by the Foraker Group found the relationship between the ITC and its primary partners has suffered, partially from lack of trust in the board of directors. This lack of trust could result in one of the partner groups, either sponsors or mushers, in withdrawing their support for the race. The IOFC issued a letter to the ITC board last week demanding the immediate resignation of board president Andy Baker. Later in the year, the Iditarod adopted recommendations to expand the board and has no more active mushers on the board. Baker resigned as his term expired and also longtime CEO Stan Hooley quit.

 

Nome’s Mike Morgan and partner Chris Olds win Irondog

Mike Morgan of Nome and Chris Olds of Eagle River have won the 2018 Irondog snow machine race. The pair was first to the halfway point in Nome and managed to hang onto a small lead to win by four minutes and thirteen seconds over team 16, Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad. “It feels good to be champion,” said Morgan. “Definitely. Hard work pays off!”

 

Open water wreaks havoc at Little Diomede

With no sea ice to protect the shore open water and high surf exceeded the high water line, threatening the village of Little Diomede. According to Kawerak’s tribal coordinator Frances Ozenna residents observed the high tide breaking off large chunks of shore ice. The city blew the horn to alert the people of the village so they could pull their boats up higher. High winds from the south up to 70 mph whipped up the waves. On Friday the helicopter brought in Orville Ahkinga Jr. to do emergency repairs. He reported wind and heavy salt spray had damaged transmission lines, transformers, and secondary lines. Fuel tanks, the pump fuel station, and water distribution lines and pipes all suffered water damage.

 

March

City sells old museum and library to pot retailer

A Fairbanks pot retailer has purchased Nome’s former library and museum on Front Street with the intention of opening a retail marijuana shop. They will also have an eatery and coffee shop in the building. The buyer is Mason Evans of Fairbanks. His company Grass Station 49 operates several pot shops in the interior. He is not related to the Nome Evans family nor is he the Mason Evans who was born and raised in Nome. The property was appraised at $669,000 and the winning bid was $351,000.

 

Sixty-seven mushers head for Nome

The ceremonial start of the 46th Iditarod saw 67 mushers, their teams, and thousands of onlookers in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 2. The 11-mile ceremonial trail to Campbell Lake airstrip was lined with thousands more. Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Governor Byron Mallott roamed the start area with surprise withdrawal John Baker. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Nome’s Richard Beneville greeted the crowds.

 

Oxereok sentenced to 20 years in jail for child sex abuse

Former Bering Strait School District computer technician Amos Oxereok said he deserved prison for the abuse of his students. The State of Alaska charged him with seven counts related to molestation. He waived indictment by a grand jury and pleaded guilty to two counts Sexual Abuse of a Minor Under 13 years of age. He was sentenced to 30 years with 20 years suspended on each of the two counts, sentences to be served consecutively. After release from prison he must register as a sex offender until the end of his life.

 

Commercial crab season underway

The opening of the Norton Sound commercial and CDQ crab season drew local residents to the offshore ice with pots, augurs, and sometimes chainsaws. According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jim Menard 41 crabbers were registered with more expected. The GHL, guideline harvest level, was set for 25,553 pounds for the winter commercial fishery and 23,956 pounds for the CDQ fishery. In 2001 NSEDC stated they would buy only from Norton Sound residents. As you don’t need a boat but fish through the ice villagers can generate income. Total value of the fishery is between two and three million dollars.

 

Joar Leifseth Ulsom wins Iditarod 2018

Norwegian musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom crossed under the burled arch at 3 a.m. Wednesday morning after nine days and twelve hours on the trail along the southern route. A big crowd was on hand in the perfect 10-degree conditions as he and his eight dogs entered the finish area. Asked how it felt to win the race he replied, “It’s pretty unreal that we pulled it off.” He said winning the Iditarod had been a dream of his since he saw fellow Norwegian Robert Sorlie win the race in 2003.

Two mushers rescued from blowhole during Iditarod race

The notoriously dangerous stretch of the Iditarod trail between Topkok and the Bonanza bridge wreaked havoc with Iditarod musher Jim Lanier and his team. Lanier got off the trail but soon his GPS got him headed back in the right direction. Because of exhaustion and his sled getting hung up on driftwood he huddled with his dogs in the cold darkness. Fellow musher Scott Janssen came by and found Lanier. He tended to the musher and soon both were hypothermic. Three Iditabikers came by and stopped to help. They were able to phone biker Phil Hofstetter’s wife in Nome and she alerted SAR authorities. Nome Search and Rescue went out and was able to rescue the two mushers. Two EMTs with mushing experience hooked the dog teams into one 24-dog team and mushed into Nome. Janssen and Lanier were in good health when they arrived in Nome.

 

Jarvis Miller wins Nome-Golovin 200 snowmachine race

Nome’s Jarvis Miller scored his first win in the C class and overall category as he took the race with a time of 2 hours 8 minutes and 18 seconds. Second went to rookie Cody Sherman and Nicholas Reader was third. The trail takes riders from Nome to Golovin via White Mountain. This year’s race saw the most women ever, sixteen. Mary Sue Hyatt of Kotzebue won in the women’s division.

 

Port supporters push for expansion to deeper water

Port Director Joy Baker and Mayor Richard Beneville testified to the Alaska legislature on Joint Resolution 33, which urges Congress to establish and Arctic naval station. The resolution cites expanded business and shipping in the Arctic and Russia’s superiority in icebreakers. The Nome duo travelled to Washington D.C. in late February to meet with agencies which have Arctic oversight and also with the Alaska Congressional delegation. They promoted the many benefits of expanding the Port of Nome and discussed creative ways of funding construction.

 

Warmer seas foster toxic algae blooms

Poisons produced by algae ingested by shellfish, which become food for marine mammals and humans in the Bering Sea region, worried members of the Seward Subsistence Regional Advisory Council at their meeting in Nome March 5 and 6. The risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning to humans who depend on foods from the sea grows as the water temperatures rise.

 

Dr. David Head sues NHSC over contract termination

The former medical director and chief of staff at Nome’s Norton Sound Regional Hospital filed a lawsuit seeking damages for improper termination, economic loss, emotional distress and damage to his professional reputation. Dr. David Head was the top physician at the facility for 29 years. He is demanding a jury trial on all issues. The suit names defendants NHSC, Jacob Ivanoff, former president of the hospital board of directors and Angie Gorn, the hospital’s CEO. The termination of Dr. Head’s contract came at the same time as allegations of wrong doing by Dr. Karen O’Neill, who was exonerated.

 

Armed robbers injure cab driver

A young adult and a juvenile injured a driver for Checker Cab with a knife while attempting to rob him. Police arrested Cody Kobuk, 18 and a 15-year-old juvenile. Driver Dan McDaniel was cut in the neck with a box cutter knife. During the attempted robbery the juvenile pointed a handgun at him. Kobuk was charged with one count of robbery in the first degree and one count of assault in the first degree.

 

Nome hosts gathering of scientists

Scientists from around Alaska gathered in Nome to share and discuss their work and to learn from their colleagues in other disciplines. The 11th Annual Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference was hosted by the UAF Northwest Campus and brought together researchers who don’t normally get exposure to each others’ work.

 

Alaskan of the Year Award goes to Eileen Norbert for book Mendalook

The Alaska Library Association recognized the book “Mendalook: An Inupiat Teacher’s Photographs of Village Life, 1907-1932.” The award was established in 1994 to honor outstanding fiction and non-fiction works about Alaska. ‘’

 

April

Marijuana Control Board approves first Nome pot store

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board met in Nome April 4, 5, and 6 and among other business they approved Nome’s first marijuana retail store. Robin Thomas, the owner of the enterprise, will open Gudlief Organization, located on West E Street. Thomas is the first weed retailer in Northwest Alaska and perhaps off the road system. Additionally, Mason Evans of Fairbanks also attended, representing his company Grass Station 49, which plans to open a retail marijuana store in the old Nome library and museum building on Front Street. He is not the same Mason Evans who grew up in Nome.

 

Council approves $11.3 million for Nome Joint Utilities

The Nome Common Council approved next year’s budget for water and power operations for Nome Joint Utility System. Based on projections for both sales revenue and expenses for 2018, the plan does not propose or require any base rate increases.

 

Longtime Nome physicians honored

Patients, friends, and co-workers of Dr. David Head filled Old St Joe’s for a community appreciation celebration. Dr. Head’s long career as chief of staff at Norton Sound Health Corporation was acclaimed with speeches, anecdotes, and personal testimony from the crowd at Old St. Joe’s. The crowd also celebrated the careers of Dr. Karen O’Neill and Dr. Sai-ling Liu. The three physicians have worked together serving the people of Nome for over 30 years.

 

Nome’s Tre West fastest in Kotzebue race

Tre West topped all racers at the annual Archie Ferguson – Willie Goodwin Memorial snow machine race held Saturday, April 7. The 220-mile snow machine classic starts in Kotzebue and goes through Noorvik, Kiana, Selawik, and back to Kotzebue. Nome’s Jarvis Miller was second in the open class.

 

May

Former Quintillion CEO busted for wire fraud

Former Quintillion CEO Elizabeth Pierce was arrested in New York City on a charge of wire fraud. The charge is connected to a multi-million dollar investment scheme to trick two New York firms into investing in the fiber optic project. She showed them large investment contracts she had forged. She faces a maximum of twenty years in prison. Quintillion’s fiber optic cable from Japan to England was routed along Alaska’s northwest coast and attached spurs to six communities, Nome being one of them. Pierce, who lived in Anchorage, was released on bail.

 

Grand Jury indicts Kobuk on attempted murder

The grand jury indicted Cody Kobuk, 18, on four criminal charges for the attempted robbery of a Checker Cab driver. The indictments are Attempted Murder First Degree, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Robbery First Degree and Assault First degree. Kobuk and an unnamed juvenile robbed the cab on the morning of March 31. Driver Dan McDaniel was cut in the neck. Kobuk has a court-appointed attorney to assist him.

 

Dr. Head’s lawsuit moved from state to federal court

A notice filed in state court says that because Norton Sound Health Corporation is a federal agency under federal jurisdiction and defendants Gorn and Ivanoff are employees, that the case must be properly filed against the United States of America. Dr. Head filed a lawsuit alleges tort claims against the three defendants stemming from Dr. Head’s demotion and contract termination as medical director and staff physician in an employment dispute. The suit asks the court to decide on monetary damages the case says will be proved in court.

 

Dramatic sea ice decrease

Scientists report there has not been such early and extensive ice recession since 1850. According to Terrin Magby at the Wales IRA office there is a narrow fringe of shore ice separating the village from the Bering Sea. “The open water came up earlier than last year,” said Magby. “People aren’t ready to go hunting yet.” The Port of Nome expects its ice-free shipping season to begin around June 1.

 

SNC settles lawsuit

The Sitnasuak Native Corporation reports a settlement has been reached in a civil lawsuit between the corporation and three of its directors. The lawsuit alleged that three of the sitting board directors “breached their fiduciary duty of loyalty and care to the company.” The legal action sought to remove the three from SNC’s Board of Directors. The three were Charles Fagerstrom, Edna Baker, and Dr. Barbara Amarok. Marie Tozier was added to be a defendant in the suit.  The settlement was reached after negotiations with retired justice Dana Fabe as mediator.

 

Eight AMCC inmates infected by E. coli bacteria

An outbreak of acute gastroenteritis caused by Escherichia coli bacteria sickened eight inmates at Nome’s Anvil Mountain Correctional Facility. All eight had eaten Romaine lettuce and that was identified as the source of the bacteria. None of the affected were hospitalized.

 

NHSC Vice President of Hospital Services leaves Nome

Phil Hofstetter, NHSC’s Vice President of Hospital Services is leaving Nome to become Chief Executive Officer of the Petersburg Medical Center. Most of his career of 25 years has been spent at NHSC.

 

NPS music director retires

Nome’s long-time music director Ron Horner retired at the end of the school year. Mr. Horner has seen class after class start in kindergarten and advance on until graduating from high school. After 19 years with Nome’s schools he is moving on. “When I got to Nome there were a few kids in the band but there was no choir,” he said. It was a challenge to get the band going.” There was an open period at school so he started a choir. He also got the pep band going. “Music is something that touches a person’s heart in a way that is so unique,” he said.

 

Reed Eide sentenced to 60 years on sex crimes

Judge Romano DeBenedetto ordered Reed Eide to serve 60 years in jail after he pleaded guilty to two felony charges stemming from alleged unlawful sexual contact with women whose dwellings he entered during the night. The charges filed stemmed from unlawful sexual contact with incapacitated women asleep in their bedrooms.

 

Outside interest seeks permits to mine gold in Bonanza Channel

A company named IPOP with an address in Las Vegas has applied for a APMA general mining permit to mine for gold in the Bonanza Channel, alarming subsistence users who frequent the area to fish and hunt. A slick video produced by the company shows a dredge that would mine for gold with a huge cutter head by sweeping the bottom of the channel from side to side. According to APMA the firm holds claims to 32 State of Alaska mining claims in the Solomon area. The same promotional video indicates the mining operation will go hand in hand with a TV reality show called “Rivers of Gold.” No permits have been issued.

 

Drunk driver sentenced to six years

The driver of a vehicle which rolled on Nome – Council Highway and sent two women to the hospital was sentenced to jail for six years. Michael “Scooter” Hahn, age 33, was charged on two counts of Assault Second Degree – recklessly Cause Serious Physical Injury and one count of Driving Under the Influence. Both women had to be medivaced to Seattle.

 

Ahne Schield in Nome Public Schools’ new music director

As Mr. Horner resigned after 19years of teaching music to Nome students the new teacher steps forward from the ranks of those he taught music. Ahne Schield began with Mr. Horner when she was a fourth grader. “I do not plan to change too much too soon,” she said of the music program. “I think Mr. Horner has done a really good job to build from the ground up.”

 

Alaska Youth Court held annual conference in Nome

More than 80 students from around the state were in Nome for the annual conference of United Youth Courts of Alaska. They participated in seminars and exercises to expand their skills as part of the state’s criminal justice system. Alaska is the only state, which by statute authorizes youth courts to hear, try, and dispose of cases involving minors who have committed misdemeanors.

 

Moving sales announce exodus of teachers

That people are moving out of Nome is clear from Nome’s buy and sell page on Facebook. Unfortunately for the Nome school district and for local students many of those movers make up forty percent of the teaching staff at Nome Public Schools. The official count is 21 teachers out of a staff of 54. Six classified staff are also leaving. “It is an unusual number of departures compared to previous years,” said Superintendent Shawn Arnold. Why are they leaving? “The main reason many staff have given for leaving is the uncertainty of state and local funding from year to year,” said Mr. Arnold.

 

This winter saw second highest snowfall in recorded history

According to the National Weather Service 115.5 inches of snow fell on Nome, making the winter 2017/18 number two for snowfall since modern record keeping began. The winter of 1994/95 remains in first position with 129 inches. Last year city crews hauled 5,500 truckloads of snow to the snow dump. As of May 4 this year the number of loads is at 11,556.

 

Assaults go unchecked, women tell City in work session

City officials faced a room of mostly Alaska Native women who demanded the City work with individuals and social agencies to solve the problem of increasing numbers of assaults they say go unaddressed by police. According to Lisa Ellanna the group had been meeting for months on the issue of public safety in the city. Some women said they were very angry but several stressed they came out of love for their community and wanted to join forces to solve some serious issues.

 

Former Nome community service officer charged with assault

On April 25 the Alaska Office of Special Prosecutions filed charges against Carl Putman for an incident, which happened when he was working as a Nome Police Department Community Service officer. He allegedly punched a woman in the head. According to charging documents Putnam has picked up the woman on Front Street with the intention of transporting her to the NEST shelter. When she passed out and Putnam was unable to wake her he took her to the hospital. He admitted to Sgt. Dickerson of Nome PD that he’d become frustrated with the woman and punched her with a balled-up fist.  

 

Nome Chamber of Commerce makes a comeback

The dormant Nome Chamber of Commerce has arisen from its long sleep. It now has a board of directors and an executive director and has begun to recruit businesses to participate. The nine-member board hired Paul Kosto in January and from his corner office on the ground floor of the federal building he orchestrates the return of the chamber.

 

Pair faces multiple felonies on contract rape charges

Two Saint Michaels residents are accused of contracting a sexual assault on a Saint Michaels man. Austin Matthias faces six felony charges. Julia Haworth was indicted for allegedly asking Matthias to commit the assaults in exchange for a jug. An omnibus hearing for both defendants is scheduled for June 29, according to court documents.

 

UAF recognizes educational achievement

The 42nd Annual Commencement of the Northwest Campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks filled Old St. Joe’s on Thursday, May 10 for the conferring of degrees, certificates, and occupational endorsements for about 40 students. Ahne Schield sang the Star Spangled Banner to begin the proceedings. The keynote speaker was Evon Peter, Vice Chancellor of Rural, Community, and Rural Education at UAF.

 

Longtime teacher Josie Bourdon retires from Nome Elementary School

Nome born and raised Josie Bourdon is retiring from teaching after thirty years, twenty eight of those years in Nome and two in Wales. She graduated from Nome-Beltz High School in 1982 and continued at University of Alaska Anchorage where she earned her Bachelor of Education degree in 1988. She taught fourth grade for seven years, then third grade for around eighteen. In 2011 she began to teach third through sixth grade cultural studies. “I was destined to be one,” Bourdon said of her chosen profession.

 

 

Miners seek compromise with Coast Guard

The Nome Port Commission has decided not to go after a boundary change that would exempt gold dredges from newly enforced U.S. Coast Guard regulations. Instead the City will seek a review for a special ruling for a hybrid regulation for what was required on those vessels, specific to the unique fleet at Nome. The vessels of three mining companies fall under the requirement that vessels over 79 feet long must have an inspection for a load line certificate. Andrew Lee, operator of the Tagiuk Provider, said “Overly burdensome regulations drive up the cost of projects, making them less economically viable and this less likely to be undertaken.”

 

National Guard hopes to rebuild rural presence

The Alaska National Guard is on a recruiting drive in Northwest Alaska with the objective of growing Guard membership in the region to the point where they can establish self-sustaining units of 12 to 15 personnel in Nome and in Kotzebue. The Guard in Northwest Alaska traces its roots back to the Territorial Guard of World War II. But laws passed in the past 20 years have excluded potential guardsmen who have been involved with drugs or certain other violations. “We called it the Anchorage National Guard, a joke that General Katkus at the time did not find funny at all,” said Jennifer Eva Reader, who served 20 years in the Guard in Nome.

 

NSEDC, Kawerak and BSNC oppose mining in critical Norton Sound habitat

The threat of mining by an outside firm in Safety Sound and Bonanza Channel has brought a joint response in opposition from NSEDC, Kawerak, and BSNC. The areas  support critical habitat for a variety of species important for subsistence, commercial and recreational uses. The three regional entities are united to protect areas that should be off-limits for large-scale mechanical placer mining and discharge levels.

 

Housing bosses get a close look at regional housing crisis

A group of top federal housing administrators from Washington D.C., Seattle, and Anchorage visited Nome and Savoonga to see up close the roots of Alaska’s and of the region’s housing crisis. The administrators said they had heard of the housing crisis in rural Alaska but didn’t understand the depth of the problem until they saw it with their own eyes. “I have seen a lot of terrible housing situations in the twenty plus years I have been working on homelessness, but I have not seen conditions this bad,” said Katy Miller, Seattle-based regional coordinator for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

 

IMO ok’s Bering Strait shipping routes

The International Maritime Organization has approved Bering Sea and Bering Strait shipping routes to safeguard shipping traffic and the environment. The IMO is an organization of the United Nations. The US and Russia came up with the six two-way routes and six sensitive areas to avoid in response to increased shipping due to expansion of navigable waters in the polar regions.

 

Navy and USCG planning new icebreakers for Arctic

Three heavy polar icebreakers are in the planning in a joint effort by the Navy and the US Coast Guard. The cost of the first vessel is expected to be around $900 million with the next two coming in at around $600 million. They will be built by a shipbuilder in the U.S. The country’s ice breaker fleet consists of the heavy icebreaker Polar Star, a 399 foot ship commissioned in 1976, and the 420 foot medium icebreaker Healy, commissioned in 2000. Target for delivery of the vessels in 2023. Later in

 

June

Council raises mill rate

The Nome Common Council raised the property tax to 11 mills, still leaving a $1.6 million budget deficit in the general fund. The deficit was to be payed out of the city’s savings, to balance the general budget of $13,127,278.

 

Permitting agencies meet in Nome over IPOP

The US Army Corps of Engineers and other state permitting agencies held a public meeting in Nome to inform the public on the IPOP proposal to mine for gold in the delicate biome of Safety Sound. The presentation fell on angry ears as a roomful of locals opposed the scheme and wondered why they were the last to know. IPOP, not a known miner, had ambitions to mine at Safety Sound, brought on tons of equipment on the first barge and also planed to film a reality TV show and sell mining-themed merchandise. The necessary permits were not obtained in time for the 2018 mining season and the aspiring miners were told to go back to the drawing board and apply for exploration permits.

 

Bloomstrand sentenced to 13 years

James D. Bloomstrand, 38, of Nome, was sentenced to 13 years in jail for manslaughter in the death of his toddler son. Eigtheen-month old Ronald Bloomstrand was killed when his father rolled their car in an accident at Bluestone Creek. The child died from his injuries. Trooper investigations revealed that Bloomstrand drove under the influence after a night of drinking in Teller.

 

Coastal Villages Regional Fund holds meeting in Nome

Representatives from the CDQ group Coastal Villages Regional Fund held a meeting in Nome to convince the public of the need to seek a change in quotas for Pollock, crab and cod per the Magnusson-Stevens Act, the federal law that enacted the CDQ program. They argued that the allocation formula disproportionately allocates fish quota without using population numbers as a guiding principle. NSEDC representatives were present. NSEDC’s position is that more can be lost than gained when renegotiating quotas.

 

July

Nome Schools have new superintendent

After Shawn Arnold moved from Nome to Valdez to serve as superintendent there , the school board hired Bill Schildbach, whose most recent job was principal of Mt. Spurr Elementary School at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. He has experience living off the road system as he has worked in Emmonak as principal and Kotzebue as director of assessment. He moved to Nome in June.

 

Pilgrim Hot Springs closed after wild partying

Wild, over-the-top partying at Pilgrim Hot Springs caused property managers to close the gates and prohibit the public from visiting there. According to a Bering Straits Native Corporation spokesman, the wild partiers did not mix well with families trying to enjoy the place. The gates remained closed for the summer season.

 

Kaylene Evans crowned Miss WEIO

Nome’s Kaylene Evans won the 2018 Miss WEIO competition in Fairbanks. She is the daughter of Bobby Evans and Kathleen Jaycox. She is the first Nomeite to win the title since Majorie Tahbone won in 2010.

 

Russian sailors travel from Lake Baikal to Alaska

Three Russian sailors from Irkutsk on a homemade catamaran stopped in Nome after sailing from Lake Baikal to Anchorage, on a voyage with historic precedent. Before Russia sold Alaska to the USA, the route was well-traveled by traders shipping sea otters pelts to Asia. The three sailors set off on May 30, 2017 from Lake Baikal in central Asia, and arrived in Nome in late July.

 

August

At the tenth annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission, in Chukotka, the annual sustainable harvest of the Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population was raised from 58 to 85 bears.

 

NOAA survey shows shocking lack of thermal barrier

In the most important story of the year, Sandra Medearis was the first to report on a shocking find that scientists revealed after coming off a research vessel in Nome: they could not find the so-called cold pool.

NOAA Fisheries scientists conducting their annual trawl survey of the southern Bering Sea ecosystem found unprecedented conditions of warm ocean temperatures and significant changes in the cod and Pollock numbers. They received emergency funding to bring their trawl survey north to Diomede to investigate. What they found: a shocking lack of colder ocean waters that separate the northern and southern Bering Sea marine ecosystem. The “thermal curtain” is another expression for “cold pool” that acts as a barrier to keep some species, mostly Pollock and Pacific cod, from migrating across the Eastern Bering Sea shelf and northward toward the Bering Strait. In 37 years of surveys the scientists found no cold pool and no single water station with a bottom temperature of less than one degree Celsius. They also noted a dramatic increase of fat, adult Pollock caught just south of Diomede.

 

Nome Public Schools health insurance premiums skyrocket

Employees of Nome Public Schools saw a dramatic increase in insurance premiums at double the price. The rate hike came after the number of claims by district employees was more than the insurance company planned for and put the district into a “high risk” category.

 

New police chief to be hired

Nome Police Chief John Papasodora retired effective September and the city under City Manager Tom Moran began quietly searching for a replacement. Moran assembled an interview panel of Councilmen Doug Johnson and Mark Johnson, NVFD volunteer Paul Kosto, NVAD volunteer John Handeland, City of Nome employee Dana Handeland and AST trooper James Eyester. Eventually, Moran hired Robert Estes of Jarrat, Virginia to be Nome’s new police chief. Estes works on a three-year contract with a starting salary of $100,000.

 

Citizens demand change

A townhall meeting announced on City letterhead drew a large crowd of people trying to discuss ways with public officials to improve public safety in Nome, but the city’s representation was minimal as only one councilmember and the city clerk and two uniformed police officers attended. The meeting came about as allegations surfaced that sexual assaults and other violent crimes in Nome were not adequately investigated by Nome police. The citizen group called for increased NPD transparency, accountability and rebuilding the trust in Nome’s public safety system.

 

Senator Murkowski brings field hearing on housing to Savoonga

Senator Lisa Murkowski chaired a field hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in Savoonga. They heard about inadequate housing, overcrowding and homelessness in rural Alaska.

 

Vandals wreak havoc at Nome sled dog lots

Fifty-nine sled dogs housed at a communal dog yard in Nome were turned loose by unknown persons in the early morning hours of August 25. Huskies from three different kennels were untethered from their chains, causing a scene of chaos and confusion. As a result, one dog died and seven other dogs were injured.

All other dogs were found and secured. Although Nome police was contacted and asked to investigate, the people responsible were never found or brought to justice.

 

September

Nome dispatcher blows whistle on uninvestigated rape cases

Nome police continued to be under fire when Nome Police Department Bun Hardy went public with her story of having been raped, reporting the crime to her colleagues at NPD only to see no resolution to her case. Allegations of letting sexual assaults in Nome go uninvestigated have been repeatedly brought up by a coalition of women who have implored the Nome Common Council to take action.

 

City Manager Moran gives 30-day notice

On Sept. 17, in a special meeting and after a three-hour executive session on personnel, the Nome Common Council accepted Tom Moran’s resignation as city manager. Moran had held the position for three and a half years.

 

Nome hosts museum conference

The 2018 Museums Alaska and Alaska Historical Society’s joint conference was held on Sept. 12-15, 2018 in Nome. The conference brought 125 people from all across Alaska to Nome.

 

St. Michael man found guilty of rape

A Nome jury found Austin Matthias guilty on two counts of sexual assault in the first degree and one count of assault in the second degree in the contract sodomy of another man on behalf of an alleged drug and alcohol dealer to whom the victim owed money.

 

Council names John Handeland interim city manager

The Nome Common Council unanimously appointed John Handeland to serve as interim city manager. Handeland is also NJUS manager.

 

October

New members voted to be on Nome Common Council

Longtime councilmember Stan Andersen did not seek reelection and sitting councilman Lew Tobin was defeated in this year’s municipal election. The newly elected council members are Jennifer Reader and Meghan Sigvanna Topkok. Also elected to office were: Derek McLarty and Dave Barron to serve on the Utility Board, Nancy Mendenhall retained her school board as did Sandy Martinson. In the election for the Nome representative to the NSEDC board, Adem Boeckmann defeated incumbent Pat Johanson. The proposition to increase bed tax failed and voters decided to keep the seasonal sales tax increase in the summer time.

 

Moran ousted

The Nome Common Council prematurely ended Tom Moran’s tenure as city manager and put him on administrative leave 10 days before he was set to leave the post after his resignation on Sept. 17. The decision came after a executive session. In the same meeting Nome resident Ahne Schield addressed the council with grievances against Moran stemming from an incident in the summer.

 

Council mulls creation of public safety committee

In a work session the Nome Common Council and a group of citizens met to discuss the formation of a public safety committee to help improve relations between the public and the Nome Police Department.

 

Lt. Governor Mallott resigns

Three weeks before the November elections, Lt. Governor Byron Mallott abruptly resigned over inappropriate comments made. He never went public on what those comments were or to whom they were directed. Governor Walker swore in Valerie Davidson as Lt. Governor. Later in the month, Walker dropped out of the governor’s race.

 

Search suspended for missing mariner

Longtime Nome fisherman Anthony Shelp, 56, fell overboard his boat Juda Lee on Oct. 26 and was never found. Shelp was on the boat with his girlfriend, their five-year-old daughter and the girlfriend’s brother. NVFD, AST and the Coast Guard searched for Shelp to no avail.

 

November

October in Nome was warmest in over a century

The year 2018 saw the warmest October in 112 years of weather data available for Nome. The high temperature of 61°F on Sept. 30 was not only the warmest on record for the day, but the warmest so late in the season.

 

White Mountain man missing after falling through the ice

Lincoln Simon from White Mountain was subsistence fishing at Golovnin Bay when his four-wheeler broke through the ice. An extensive search effort went underway with searchers from several different communities to find Simon.

 

Kawerak and City jointly request help from state and federal agencies to reform NPD

The City of Nome and Kawerak sent a letter to the FBI, the Governor, state legislators and the Alaska Congressional Delegation requesting assistance “to ensure justice for all victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes in the Bering Strait region.” The letter came after a period of municipal turmoil stemming from allegations that NPD has failed to adequately investigate crimes in Nome.

 

Dunleavy elected

Mike Dunleavy was elected Governor of Alaska, Don Young held on to his seat as the lone Alaska Congressman and Ballot Measure 1 that called for stronger salmon habitat protections, failed.

 

Haworth pleads guilty

Julia Haworth pleaded guilty to a charge that she contracted with Austin Matthias to sodomize a St. Michael man for  drug money owed.

 

Air traffic hampered due to weather, runway heaves

Travelers trying to get in or out of Nome had a tough time reaching their destination as a combination of snowy weather and frost heaves on Nome’s main runway caused delays and flight cancellations. The problem was addressed and a temporary fix to the runway was applied in December.

 

City still talking about creation of public safety panel

In a work session following a regular council meeting, the council and the attending public decided: yes, let’s do this and get a panel started. Mayor Richard Beneville and the council committed that the next meeting regarding the topic was to happen before the year’s end –which didn’t materialize – and would include a facilitator who would focus participants on defining the structure and the purpose of the yet unnamed committee or commission that would serve as an advisory body to the City in regards to public safety.

 

Ordinance to limit hours for liquor sales fails

In an effort to curb public inebriation on Front Street, the Nome Common Council proposed an ordinance to limit hours of liquor sales. The ordinance failed.

 

Federal report warns of disastrous human and economic impacts if climate change goes unchecked

The federal government has issued a 1,000-page report that states future human activities will pay a whopping economic price on continued global climate changes.

 

 

December

Days after the November 30 earthquake shook Anchorage and Mat-Su region, aftershocks continued to rattle residents and state and federal agencies began assessing the damage to buildings and infrastructure.

 

High speed internet available in Nome

In December TelAlaska began offering access to residents and small businesses to fast internet speeds through the Quintillion fiber optic cable laid in 2017.

 

Nome man sentenced to 60 years for attempted murder

Frank R. Johnson, 39, was sentenced to 60 years in jail after having plead guilty to the attempted murder of a Nome police officer.

 

Three nurses graduate

A pinning ceremony on December 12 recognized the graduation from Nome’s newest nurses Richelle Horner, Colette Topkok and Mary Irene Ruud.

 

Starr Erikson crowned wrestling champion

Nome Nanook wrestler won the state championship in the 112-pound class at the Alaska Wrestling State Championship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762
USA

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

www.nomenugget.net

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