Youth representative sworn in to Nome Common Council
An almost complete Nome Common Council – with all present except for councilwoman Jennifer Reader — was all smiles when the first point of order on last Monday’s regular meeting consisted of swearing in Molly Kenick as the first Youth Representative to the Council.
Kenick, an 11-grader at Nome-Beltz High School, held her right hand up and repeated after City Clerk Bryant Hammond the oath of office: to support the Constitution of the United States, the laws of the State of Alaska and the ordinances of the Municipality of Nome and to discharge her duties of the City of Nome Youth Representative without fear, favor or partiality.
The Kenick family, councilmembers, including Mayor Richard Beneville who led through the meeting, and other people in the audience applauded as Councilmember Kenick took her place at the table.
The Council breezed through a light agenda and finished business within one hour. In citizen comments, Kenny Hughes stepped up to the podium and welcomed Mayor Beneville back to Nome after his medically-forced sojourn in Anchorage.
Builders Industrial Supply business owner Keith Reddaway addressed the Council in regards to the mulled single-use plastic bag ban and asked for clarification on the associated tax or penalty. He reminded the council that a plastic bag ban would affect every retail business in Nome and if it is enacted, he said, “Please don’t make it incremental, either ban them or don’t ban it and give us enough lead time to prepare for it.”
The only action the Council took was to approve a resolution concerning a labor agreement between Nome Joint Utilities and the IBEW, Local 1547 through December, 2022.
City Manager Glenn Steckman gave a verbal report on his busy week, which included the update that the Nome School District secured a $500,000 grant to plan a housing development to house teachers and police officers. Steckman also said he attended Friday’s annual Chamber of Commerce members meeting, where the issue of coronavirus were brought up. He said Tom Vaden and the LEPC have been monitoring the issue closely for the past seven weeks. Steckman also said he had been interviewing candidates for the finance director position last week. Then Steckman broke the big news and revealed the three candidates for the post of Nome Police Chief who advanced into the next round of the hiring process. They are Acting Chief Mike Heintzelman, Jennifer Shockley who currently mentors the Liberian National Police in Liberia, and Joel Fitzgerald Sr., PhD of Fort Worth, Texas. Noting that this time, the process to hire a new chief of police differs from the past, Steckman asked the Council how they would like to be involved in the process. The newly created Public Safety Commission helped narrow down a list of ten applicants to five individuals, who were interviewed via teleconference on Saturday. (See related story in this edition). “ My question to you is, how would you like to be part of that?” he said. The next step is to bring the two out of town candidates to Nome and meetings with them shall be open to the public. Steckman said that yes, ultimately it is up to him to recommend a candidate to the council, but he encourages further questions and stakeholder involvement. “In light of everything that has been going on, I want all stakeholders to get their questions to the candidates, so that everybody has a buy-in.” Eventually it was settled that the three candidates would be meeting with the Council, with the Chamber of Commerce and with the public.
In other business, the council received a letter from Nome Discovery Tours, encouraging the city to maintain and clean the flagship buildings Old St. Joe’s and the Mini Convention Center, as they are due for a deep cleaning of floorings, chairs and carpets. Nome Discovery Tours hosts cruise ship guests at the facilities. Steckman agreed that the buildings are overdue for an overhaul and that he will have to budget cleaning and repair efforts into the budget.
In the second chance for citizen comments, Roxanne Thurman stepped to the podium and said she’d like to see the return of televised council meetings as there are a lot of elders who would like stay in the loop but can’t physically make it to the Council chambers to attend. GCI used to broadcast Council meetings but the long tradition petered out for unknown reasons. Steckman said he would check with GCI and see what can be done.
Mayor Beneville thanked all for the get-well wishes and reported that his hospital room at times resembled a conference room. He said even Governor Mike Dunleavy stopped by and sat with him for a while, chatting about the port.
The next Council meeting will take place on March 9 with several ordinances going through second readings, including the Port Tariff increase, adoption of the Remote Sellers Sales Tax Code; approval of NJUS operations and maintenance budgets for 2020 and 2021.