Common Council: City calls residents to shovel sidewalks
The Nome Common Council tabled a measure requiring property owners to clear accumulated ice as well as snow from sidewalks adjacent to their property. A city law already requires snow removal. However, most sidewalks border state roads. In discussion, comments from the public and some council members revealed a concern for liability being transferred from the State of Alaska to property owners.
“This is actually public property and State of Alaska right-of-way,” John Handeland said from the public comment podium. “It seems putting the onus for clearing ice on the adjoining property owner transfers liability to the private citizen.”
Removing snow was one thing, but from the aspect of liability, one could remove ice down to the sidewalk, but when new snow fell, there would be glare ice again, Handeland continued, saying that maybe the idea would be for the property owner to throw down some salt. Going further, Handeland observed that some pieces of remaining boardwalk would be safer for pedestrians.
Councilman Jerald Brown wanted to know what the City’s attorney would advise on requiring the property owner to clear the ice from adjoining sidewalks. Councilman Green felt that since the state owned sidewalks, the liability would belong to the state, not the adjacent property owner.
“The City’s intention puts more liability on the property owner by [requiring ice removal] or being fined,” Councilman Mark Johnson offered.
What to do with the snow and ice cleared off sidewalks? Councilman Lew Tobin wondered, since the City administration had been complaining that people shoveling away snow had been piling it on streets.
“Do people have to put it in a pickup truck and drive it somewhere?” Tobin asked.
The idea to require folks to clear the sidewalks by their houses or businesses was not new, according to Tom Moran, city manager. If it had been illegal, it would not have been already on the books, Moran said.
Handeland suggested then that the ordinance be amended to exclude language concerning ice removal.
Moran preferred to wait until the attorney had given the ordinance the once over, perhaps with the hope that ice removal could stay in the ordinance.
“If it’s not going to pass, I’d rather it fails, rather than amend it,” Moran said.
The Council tabled the measure pending information.
In other road work, the Council unanimously voted into first reading a measure to amend the Title 18 zoning code with a definition of junk vehicles pursuant to work by the Nome Planning Commission to bring forth an ordinance clearing junkers from public road right-of-ways.
The language, taken from Title 5 of the City’s law on buildings and construction goes like this:
“Junk motor vehicle” means a discarded, dismantled, wrecked, scrapped or mined motor vehicle or parts thereof, an unregistered motorhome not connected to water and/or sewer, or a vehicle other than an on-premises utility vehicle, which is allowed to remain unregistered for a period of 30 days from the date of discovery.”
The proposed addition to Title 18 will come up for second reading and final passage at the May 22 regular Council meeting.
The Council approved two land disposal measures. The first allows leasing 71,043 sq. ft. of Port of Nome uplands to Alaska Marine Lines, the outfit that purchased Northland Services. The City has estimated the fair market rental value of the property for the five-year lease term at $1,541 per week. Terms of the lease allow one five-year extension at the option of Alaska Marine Lines.
A second land disposal ordinance authorizes the city manager to negotiate the purchase of real property from Arctic Gold Mining, for a price of $25,000. The property is the site of the Nome Volunteer Fire Dept. training ground on the west side of Center Creek Road.
Both land issues according to law will need 30-days’ public notice, meaning second reading and final passage of the ordinances will occur at the June 12 Council meeting.
The Council kicked off the meetings session with a work session on school funding and budget issues.
The state Legislature has reached an impasse on budget and school funding, according to Superintendent Shawn Arnold of Nome Public Schools. Arnold expects the Legislature to sound the gavel on the current extended session in Juneau and reconvene in Anchorage, he said.
The City has settled on a contribution of around $2.5 million, or 17 percent of school revenues for spending year 2018, which the Council must soon formally approve to meet the City’s budget deadline for setting the mill rate and school contribution figure on May 22. The school budget aims at $19,782 per student, cut back from around $21,000, along with staff and curriculum cuts.
Arnold had the good news that grant funding from an outside source was available for prekindergarten, but that everything else hung in the breeze. The House has passed a measure for a state income tax and tagged it school money. However, the Senate wants more budget trimming before going for the income tax.
In other business, Mayor Richard Beneville reappointed Jake Kenick to the Nome Museum and Library Commission of which he is chairman. Kenick’s term had expired.
Finally, the Council rejected a suggestion via letter from Josephine Bourdon proposing that the Council to change the 10 p.m. curfew to 8:30 p.m. on school nights. Bourdon, a school teacher who lives near Anvil City Park, said she had on a Sunday night observed elementary school-aged youngsters playing at the park playground at 9:30 p.m. An earlier curfew would be good, she said.
“From an educational standpoint, student who are well rested tend to perform better academically, socially and emotionally,” Bourdon wrote.
That would be OK for younger kids, but not older ones, the Council said.