City Council increases budget for visitor center
The Nome Common Council beefed up the Nome Chamber of Commerce budget to run the Nome Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. The contract replaces the expired contract providing $175,000 annually with a contract paying $200,000, or $16,666.67 per month for the next year effective July 1.
“This doesn’t meet expenses, but the Chamber had agreed to accept it,” Interim City Manager John Handeland said.
For the third time, the Council postponed approval of a lease of the Sunset Firing Range to Nome Sportsman Association, pending a consultation with the City’s attorney. The Association is seeking a lease of 99 years for one dollar rather than annual renewal. The lease term needs to be lengthened, according to Steve Smith, president, to satisfy grant terms which want the Association to be in control for at least 10 years. The issue will come up for Council approval at the August meeting to allow for the public notice required for disposal of municipal property.
In other business, the Council approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into an agreement with Bering Straits Development Co. for the Anvil City Science Academy toilet renovation project. The City had received one responsive bid on the job, which was over budget by about $50,000. The City solicited a professional cost estimate from a third party firm and used that estimate to negotiate a contract satisfactory to both the City and BSDC for $309,056.
BSDC was able to cut some costs by having the finish date pushed back for a year. Nome Public Schools is also submitting the project to State of Alaska for possible reimbursement.
In the Nome Joint Utility report delivered by Ken Morton, assistant manager, featured the issue of the State of Alaska’s defunding of the Power Cost Equalization subsidy for rural Alaska utility customers.
The PCE applies to the first 500 KWH per month used by a residence and means about a $65 monthly increase on electric bills, or $670 per year. However, Morton said folks do not have to fear the increase yet. “I am pretty optimistic something possible will happen,” Morton said. Later in the meeting, the City’s state lobbyist Wendy Chamberlain backed him up.
The PCE will be addressed in the Legislature on July 23, Chamberlain said in her report that explained budget goings-on in Juneau. She praised Rep. Neal Foster and Sen. Donny Olson for the hard work they had been doing sticking up for Nome and rural needs.
In Port of Nome news, Port Director Joy Baker announced the impending arrival of a tug assist vessel due in by the end of the month. The push vessel will help larger ships to enter and exit the port. Cook Inlet Tug and Barge has decided to place a 64-ft. shallow draft river class tug called the Kovik Wind in Nome for the 2019 season to serve the needs of the maritime industry as an assist and rescue tug. “This fills an operational gap that has existed in Nome for many years,” Baker said. “When word gets out I think they will have more business than they know what to do with.” Baker expressed the hope that there is sufficient demand for the assistance of the Kovik Wind to enable CIT&B to sustain operations for many seasons to come.
CIT&B intends to haul out the tug on air bags and winter in Nome for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
In a 6:00 p.m. work session preceding the Council meeting, John Smolen, a Washington D.C attorney specializing in public—private partnerships for large infrastructure projects addressed the Council. He underlined a variety of options and how they can fund public projects. The City is planning how they will achieve the cost-share of the potential port expansion.
Smollen presented his “Primer on Public—Private Partnerships,” chock-full of information on the concept, variations, general policy and business concerns, discussion of advantages and disadvantages and the negotiations and costs for assigning risks.
The Council approved Mayor Richard Beneville’s reappointed of Russell Rowe to Rowe’s expired seat on the Nome Port Commission. Ralph Ray also applied to serve.