Council gets ready to tackle the budget
In its regular meeting held on Monday, Dec. 9, the Nome Common Council heard updates on the Nome Inner Harbor Launch Ramp Project. The job will cost $1.7 million. Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. will provide $300,000 and the City of Nome will provide the remaining $123,000. Work on the facility will begin after the vessels have entered the water for the summer season and be finished before they are taken out for the winter, according to Joy Baker, port director.
“We are waiting for approval of our Request for Proposals for engineering services from ADEA right now. Once they make final the design they will be putting together the bid documents for the construction which we hope to have awarded by February or early March for construction this coming summer 2020,” Baker said.
Molly Kenick offered the sole comment during citizens’ comment period on the agenda.
“Sales tax on alcohol and THC (active ingredient in marijuana) should vary depending on the level of alcohol and THC content. If it’s a lower level the taxes shouldn’t be high, but if it is a higher level, it should be high to encourage people who consume it not to risk alcohol poisoning,” Kenick suggested. Additionally she proposed a signup sheet as a means to gauge frequent consumers who could be urged to counseling or other measures to keep from harming themselves or others, a way for the community to help each other.
The issue of excise tax on marijuana, alcohol and tobacco came up at a work session on sales tax before the meeting, as did doing away with personal property tax, taxing commercial airplanes and reworking the tax on pull-tabs, applying the tax to ideal net vs. gross receipts to allow nonprofits to fund themselves and free up some NSEDC Community Benefit Share money for general community needs. These ideas will be discussed further at work sessions after the first of the year. Generally, the intent seemed to be reworking some of the tax policies and budget practices to make them more boilerplate and understandable to the folks who will be paying the taxes and administering them.
A new police car, a Ford Expedition, has been on the street since the last barge arrived, according to Glenn Steckman, city manager. “If the money was budgeted by the Council through the budgetary process, so Nome Police Dept. staff thought they could go out and purchase it,” Steckman said. “It just wasn’t clear. I don’t think there was a harmful intention to avoid the process, “ Steckman said, “but I just wanted to make sure you were aware, especially since it is rolling stock for $40,000 and the statement is for $50,000.”
Discussion revealed the thought that the extra money went for turning the stock Ford Explorer into a police car.
There were mistakes in the budget process, Steckman told the Council, that were being corrected now. He added that the process needed to be clarified for department heads to have more responsibility for budgets and needs. There would be changes in the budget processes over the next couple of months. For example, the police department had overspent the budget for capital equipment, according to Steckman.
“We’re going to be putting clearer processes in place,” Steckman declared. “I’m just seeing mistakes. I want to make sure you are informed and we have transparency.”
In other business, the Council:
• By resolution gave the State of Alaska a Temporary Construction Easement for working room to update and rehabilitate Bering Street next summer.
• Ratified Mayor Richard Beneville’s appointment of Greg Smith to fill a vacancy on the Nome Planning Commission.
• Voted in support of a grant application the Nome Community Center was making to obtain a bus for seniors. No money from the City is required.
• Were informed by Ken Morton, assistant utility manager, of a waste water leak in Polaris Alley where there are old Sclaircore structures dating from the early 1980s. Additionally, he reported that Nome Joint Utility System will soon be bargaining over contracts with labor unions, beginning with the Operators. NJUS employees are also covered by Public Employees Association for administrative and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
• Received a report from Steckman that he had contacted Alaska Commercial Store and Hansen’s Safeway concerning the discontinued use of plastic bags. AC was receptive; management at Safeway said they would consult headquarters.
• Heard from Steckman that he would like them to work with him on goals and objectives “especially for your evaluation of me.”
• Received word from Steckman that the state Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities would be boring test holes in Seppala Drive to begin planning for upgrades. The exercise would require sections to be closed from time to time.
• Received word from Steckman indicating he would like to discuss how the Council wants to go about redoing employee contracts like the harbormaster’s and other department managers’ to make them more consistent.