Council ok’s block grant application for Housing First project
By Diana Haecker
The Nome Common Council took care of two action items on the agenda in a swift, regular meeting on Monday, passing in first reading an ordinance to dispose of city property along the Port Road to the DOT to accommodate improvements and passing a resolution to apply for a Community Development Block grant from the state for the Housing First HomePlate project.
The ordinance relating to city property at Port Road concerns several right-of-way easements as the Dept. of Transportation plans to reconstruct Port Road to improve its “substandard” traffic flow in support for the larger reconstruction and expansion of the Port of Nome. The fair market value of the easements, about 89,000 square feet, were pegged at $197,700 by a third party appraiser. The ordinance says that “the Council finds that the use of the property is for beneficial transportation and Port infrastructure purposes.”
The ordinance passed first reading and is slated to be up for a public hearing and second reading on Nov. 28.
The Council also passed a resolution that authorizes the City of Nome to participate in a Community Development Block Grant program. The city would – on behalf of Nome Community Center’s HomePlate Housing First project - apply for a grant in the amount of $675,397 from the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The lionshare of the funds is the piling installation, as well as the water and sewer connection from the main to the structure, including arctic pipes, fittings and utility boxes.
City Manager Glenn Steckman was out of town but attended virtually. His written report included that the city has suffered disruptions of the phone system, including the 911 dispatch system. Some of the disruptions were caused internally by the city’s software and hardware, others were caused by the local phone providers.
He reported that the city and engineers are close to hammering out details on the design for improvements to the heat and ventilation systems at City Hall and the Rec Center. He said the estimates are higher than projected, but also said that the city still has $1.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act and $1.3 million “in surplus” funds due to the CARES Act.
The Nome Visitor Center will be closed from Nov. 28 through January 3 for renovations, including new carpeting, heating, lighting and painting.
The city leadership met with IronDog organizers last week. Nome will be again the halfway point of the 2023 Iron Dog.
In communications, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation wrote the city with the news that the board has authorized another $100,000 Community Benefit Share for this year. The letter said, this is the third NSEDC community benefit share distribution this year. In August, NSEDC authorized $100,000 per community “to allow for communities to provide a $575 heating fuel subsidy for each household in the region.” Another $100,000 per community was declared in September in response to Merbok damage.
During citizen’s comments, Davis Hovey stepped to the podium and introduced himself as the new interim general manager of KNOM and added that the radio station is looking to fill their ranks with local hires.
In councilmember comments, Scot Henderson inquired why the Common Council doesn’t incorporate the Pledge of Allegiance in the agenda. “I request, if nobody has any major concerns, that we incorporate the Pledge of Allegiance,” Henderson said. John Handeland said that an invocation had been a long-standing agenda item, which somehow, sometime got dropped. “I see no reason why we couldn’t,” Handeland said.
In subsequent comments, Student Representative Kellie Miller requested to also add a land acknowledgement to the agenda. Councilmember Sigvanna Topkok seconded the request.
In other news, Mayor Handeland said Iditarod officials will come to Nome this week for discussions on housing for mushers and fans as hotel space is limited. And he said to make note of the annual Christmas Extravaganza, which will be held on Thursday, December 8 at Old St. Joe’s. Prior to the regular meeting, the council heard from Nome Public Schools Superintendent Jamie Burgess the annual report on the state of the Nome schools.
The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 28.