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City Continues Lease Agreements with Federal Aviation Administration, Supports Graphite Creek Mine

Nome City Council member Jerald Brown points to an area of land on the zoning map. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

Municipal property was the focus of the regular City Council meeting in Nome on Monday night.

Following the conclusion of a work session to discuss the fiscal year ’19 budget, the Council unanimously passed their only piece of unfinished business. A land lease that has existed for years between the City of Nome and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will continue for another ten years. City Manager Tom Moran says technically this lease agreement should have been done through ordinance the whole time.

“Essentially what’s happening is this has happened (already) and we need it. It’s good for our emergency response, it’s good for the FAA, it’s good for the community. We have always just negotiated this lease because it’s de minimis, but really we should not be doing things like that; property disposals are supposed to be done by ordinance.”

Councilman Lew Tobin asked if there were any substantial changes made to this lease with the FAA from previous ones. Moran responded by saying the changes to the agreement and the property value, $125 per year, of the Newton Peak lease area are de minimis.

Another agreement with the FAA was also on the Council’s agenda last night, regarding a tract of land through the Nome cemetery near the airport. The City Manager explains that the City became aware of this property lease after receiving unidentified money from a mining company.

“We got a check from Alaska Gold for five years of $1,800, and we did not know what it was for. What happened was that we purchased this land, this cemetery expansion land, in 2005, and the federal government just kept cutting the check to Alaska Gold. So, when they did an audit or something, they realized they shouldn’t have been receiving this payment, so they just cut us a check.”

The key parcel’s value of the landing strip is worth under $9,000, and the FAA would pay the City $1,806.39 directly, every year for eight years, if this ordinance were approved. The Council decided to move it forward to the second reading phase along with an ordinance to vacate the right of way in Block 96 on Tobuk Alley.

Before adjourning the regular meeting, the Council passed a resolution to support the Graphite Creek mining project. Originally, the resolution included different wording in the title, but Councilman Jerald Brown put forward an amendment that the rest of the Council ultimately agreed with.

“The title should say Graphite Creek project, instead of Graphite One project, and the only other change I would make is on the ‘be it resolved,’ take out the words ‘Graphite One Resource.’ So, it would say Nome Common Council supports the Graphite Creek project.”

Though the Council supports the mining project, Graphite One Resources is still seeking funding from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) through Senate Bill 203. Senator Donny Olson proposed the bill and has currently put it on hold until more public support is garnered.

Nome’s City Council will convene again on May 14th for its next regular meeting.

Image at top: file photo (September 2014): Nome City Council member Gerald Brown points to an area of land on the zoning map. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

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