Mike Heintzelman to be new Chief of Police
City Manager Glenn Steckman announced during last Monday’s regular meeting of the Nome Common Council that he recommends hiring Mike Heintzelman for the position of Chief of Police. Heintzelman had been the Interim Chief since the resignation of former Chief Bob Estes last fall.
Steckman said the Public Safety Advisory Commission met on Friday and moved to terminate the search for a new police chief, recommending the hire of Mike Heintzelman. The candidate pool of three, including Heintzelman, shrank down to one as two out-of-town candidates took jobs elsewhere. Steckman said the next step is to negotiate a contract with Heintzelman and that he expected to bring the contract to the Council at their next meeting on May 11.
With Acting Chief Heintzelman present, he reported to the Council grim numbers of a steep rise in calls for service. Last week, dispatch received 525 calls for service, 189 calls involved alcohol, 27 arrests were made, including two felony assaults and ten domestic violence calls. To date, Heintzelman reported, there were 36 sexual assaults reported this year and he said they are thoroughly investigated, with ten cases awaiting test results of DNA testing.
Heintzelman also reported that older cases are being investigated and recommended the hire of an additional investigator to assure that the backlog is being thoroughly examined. A discussion on funding for the police force was held during the preceding budget work session and the Council declared its support to NPD to make sure that the mistakes of the past — like an inadequately staffed police department —were not repeated.
Councilman Mark Johnson presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Richard Beneville, who is recovering at Providence Hospital from pneumonia. Also present was Councilwoman Jennifer Reader, Deputy City Clerk Christine Piscoya and City Manager Glenn Steckman. Acting NPD Chief Heintzelman and NJUS manager Ken Morton were on hand to deliver reports. To adhere to social distancing mandates, which now allow assemblies of up to 20 people, but still space them out at six feet distance, the other councilmembers Doug Johnson, Adam Martinson, Meghan Topkok and student council member Molly Kenick participated telephonically. Citizen comments were also taken by telephone.
The Council passed three resolutions. One was awarding urgent fuel line repairs between the port and upland fuel tanks to Seakers Inc., in the amount of $132,062. While the ownership of the fuel line is yet to be resolved — it is unclear if the pipeline and therefor the obligation to fix it belongs to the City or Bonanza Fuel— a catastrophic failure of the fuel line is imminent and Steckman recommended to take care of the repair and sort out the legalities later. The Council voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
A second resolution, also unanimously approved, awarded a contract for auditing services to Altman, Rogers & Co. for the fiscal year 2020. Steckman said he would initiate a bidding process in the fall to put auditing services out to bid.
NSEDC distributed a special $100,000 community benefit share to each member communities, including Nome. The Council passed the resolution unanimously to accept the money and use it to offset costs associated with the COVID-19 hardship.
In his city manager report, Steckman also discussed that the Port of Nome is opening up on May 31 as the first barges are anticipated to arrive in late May. Port officials are discussing with NSHC how to handle medical coronavirus related emergencies that may arise from outbreaks on fishing or other vessels. Steckman further reported that the Rec Center will be ending its operations as NEST and Day Shelter for the homeless on May 1. The city plans to re-open only the weight room and will space equipment out to allow for social distancing. The showers, sauna and bowling alley will remain closed.
Steckman reported that the city still requires that passengers coming to Nome need to produce travel permits. Staff is still busy taken permit applications and reviewing them. Some are turned down, he said, before the come to Nome, but the city also had turned back three passengers and put them on the plane back to Anchorage. Steckman said since NSHC now encourages getting tested for the virus and has rapid testing capabilities, they contemplate having voluntary testing done at the airport as people get off the plane.
In councilmembers’ comments Meghan Topkok reminded people that the Bering Sea Women’s Group is open to provide assistance to people who experience domestic violence. She said despite the increase in domestic violence lately, BSWG has not seen an uptick of more clients.
Councilman Adam Martinson commented that the city’s roads need some work and that plans should be made to address melt water runoff. He also mentioned that the city’s landfill on the Beam Road sees lots of windblown trash around it and that the issue needs to be addressed.