Nome Common Council lowers price of viewing region’s relics
The Nome Common Council meeting started off with a swearing in ceremony starring newly-hired Nome Police Dept. employees Alex Le and Justin Stein.
The pair raised their right hands and promised to “faithfully discharge the duties of City of Nome Police Officer without fear or favor, and thereby do justice to all persons and to the City so help me God.”
In other happy business, at the urging of Councilman Stan Andersen with an assist from Councilman Lew Tobin, the Council voted 4 to 2 to cut entry fees at the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum for both nonresidents and residents.
Andersen argued that the City was already losing money on all its facilities maintained for public service—Rec Center, Kegoayah Kozga Library, Old St. Joe’s, Mini Convention Center, to name examples, so why not lower the admission fees at the museum to encourage more people to visit.
New fees for nonresidents will be $4 for adults and $3 for both seniors and children. Better still, admission will be free for residents beginning July 1.
What was the museum bringing in for admissions? That answer was $7,000 to $8,000.
“So, we would give up only $7,000 to $8,000 to make it useful?” Tobin asked.
Prior nonresident fees were $7 and $6; resident admission cost $4 and $3.
In further good news on rental and use fees, the Council made no other changes; the fees will stay the same in the coming year as last year’s schedule.
Following a work session discussion of ways to combat regional domestic violence and sexual assault, the Council passed a resolution supporting Alaska Native victims of sex assault and other violent crimes having cases processed promptly and having access to information on case progress.
The resolution reflected work on revising an earlier resolution that went back to the drawing board for editing and to iron out passages a committee of women deemed “victim blaming” and “victim shaming.”
In other business, the Council:
• Passed a resolution awarding a contract for the operation of the Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Nome Chamber of Commerce. The agreement has the City of Nome to pay the Chamber a monthly $14,583.34, which adds up to $175,000.08 per year. An attempt by Councilman Lew Tobin to get the Council to vote the Chamber $20,000 per year more fell on deaf ears.
• Passed unanimously a resolution approving a contract with Legislative Consultant Wendy Chamberlain for lobbying at the state level for FY 2019 in the amount of $75,000. Chamberlain had been responsible for securing singlehandedly $3.2 million in the past two years, Tom Moran, city manager, said. “We are lucky to have her,” he said. The City has more projects for which Chamberlain will be seeking state funding next year—ambulance money, rehab of the Garco Building at the port and a new multi-response facility, as examples.
• Passed unanimously a resolution authorizing a contract for lobbying at the federal level by Windward Strategies (Jay Sterne) to pursue legislative issues and to support a constructive Arctic policy on behalf of the City in Washington D. C. Sterne had been very effective in working with Alaska’s congressional delegation and had navigated the restart of the Arctic Deep Draft Port Study, Joy Baker, port director, told the Council. She wouldn’t trade Chamberlain and Sterne for five lobbyists, Baker added.
• Passed unanimously a resolution dedicating City funds gained from the State of Alaska’s political subdivision health insurance premium holiday to the City’s equipment replacement fund to pay for a tractor and trailer set for use of the public works department. The City saved $110.448.28 in premiums for February and March. The City has decided that the best use of those savings is to transfer them to its equipment replacement fund, where they can be used for a specific purpose or transferred out.
• Passed unanimously a resolution by City of Nome to issue a revenue anticipation note revenue from the City in the amount not to exceed $6.6 million to cover purchase of diesel fuel for the Nome Joint Utility System. NJUS had gone back to Wells Fargo for the money, whereas the utility had used a competitor last year. This year, Wells Fargo had presented an offer at a favorable rate of interest—2.55 percent, according to John K. Handeland, utility manager. Vitus will again barge the fuel to Nome. Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. will once again subsidize the interest on the loan, Handeland said. Unlike the past several years, Wells Fargo had not insisted NJUS have backup from the City via a general obligation note from City of Nome. NJUS will make the final payment on the current loan of $4.6 million on July 13 and close on the new note the same day, Handeland added. If the fuel barges haven’t arrived by July 13, the money will go into an escrow account.
• Learned of progress on Nome Cemetery expansion and renovations from Dawn Ubelaker, cemetery director. City’s public works department has cleared brush from new burial areas. Tobin reported that Pioneers Igloo had purchased bronze plaques that seemed to look nice on the white markers, and had a goal to supply 10 each year. The City will be taking reservations for plots at $100 each, a reasonable fee, Andersen observed. There would probably be no grandfather rights on previous dibs, so the public should register for plots to make sure they were available.
Mayor Richard Beneville with the Council’s unanimous approval reappointed Derek McLarty to his expiring term on the Port of Nome Commission. McLarty is a miner and commercial fisherman who is employed at NSEDC. He worked for Kiewit doing harbor improvements from 2004-2006, according to his application. The City received applications also from Cole Cushman, Joe Horton, Ron Lemons, Shawn Pomrenke and Thomas Vaden. He favored the tradition of reappointing people who had worked hard and well on commissions and committees, Beneville said.