Council mulls distribution of second AK CARES Act tranche
In its regular meeting on Monday, the Nome Common Council unanimously approved in the second reading an ordinance that gives emergency powers to City Manager Glenn Steckman to take necessary actions to reduce the impact and spread of COVID-19 throughout the City of Nome. The section of the ordinance that allowed the manager to suspend or limit the sale of alcohol was taken out, but the power to control ingress to and egress from Nome and the movement of persons within the area and the occupancy of premises in it remained. In plain words: the city manager can control who travels to and from Nome and if city-owned buildings are open for business or not. Per instruction by the Council, the travel form has been simplified and no longer requires the signature of the city manager to approve travel to Nome.
There was no public opposition to the ordinance that extends the emergency powers until Dec. 31 or until the Governor of Alaska rescinds the emergency declaration, whichever comes first.
In other business, the Council approved a resolution to purchase a new phone system for the City in the amount of $115,461 of CARES Act funds as the current phones for City Hall, NJUS and the police department have reached their “end of life” and are in dire need of replacement and upgrades.
The Council postponed discussion on a resolution to spend $750,000 CARES Act funding for a relief program for businesses and non-profits. City Manager Steckman proposed a grant application for businesses and nonprofits modeled after the city of Kenai’s disbursement formula. It allocated a certain amount of grants depending on 2019 revenues. It started with at the low end with a $3,500 grant for businesses that made $50,000 to $150,000 last year and ended with a $15,000 grant for those businesses that had more than $601,000 in revenue in 2019. Councilman Jerald Brown objected to this method and said he’d rather see a needs-based approach. The consensus amongst councilmembers was that the funds were not supposed to be stimulus package for local businesses, but a relief and recovery grant to help those businesses that experienced losses due to COVID-19, the shutdown period and the uncertainty of things yet to come. The Council could not agree on a mechanism to determine how to distribute the funds on a needs basis and what the application would have to ask to make the determination. The Council decided to let City Manager look at the sales tax figures from spring through early summer to see the numbers of the economic damage and to seek input from businesses. The resolution will be addressed again in a work session on August 5, at 5:30 p.m. followed by a special session at 7 p.m., in which the Council expects to vote on the resolution and a mechanism on how to distribute the money amongst Nome businesses and non-profits.
In sad news, the Council learned of the sudden death of longtime NJUS employee Duc Giang.