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Local Infrastructure Is Focus at Nome City Council’s Dec. 10 Meeting

An Alaska Airlines jet takes off at the Nome airport. Photo: David Dodman. Used with permission.

Infrastructure updates and funding were priorities at Monday night’s Nome City Council meeting.

Interim City Manager John Handeland said he had already been corresponding with the Department of Transportation (DOT) about repairs to Nome’s runway. During the meeting, Handeland read a letter from the DOT Regional Director, Ryan Anderson, detailing the maintenance and operation repair plans. According to the letter, DOT plans on freezing a mixture of sand and ice to level the runway through winter.

“Now that it’s colder, we are pushing to have the entire length as soon as possible… this will get us through spring, at which time we will have to mobilize some equipment to use asphalt cold-patch to repair the settlement areas before spring thaw.”

An airport repair project is scheduled for the summer of 2019 for longer-term runway repairs. The council unanimously passed a resolution requesting those improvements and aid from the DOT to further emphasize the airport’s need. Councilmember Adam Martinson was excused as absent, and Councilmember Mark Johnson was present telephonically, while Councilmember Topkok called in halfway through the meeting.

Although not on the agenda, the City approved an additional $30,477 in funding for the Port Road Improvements project. Among other things, this project includes DOT design and construction for improvements on Seppala Drive and the Port Road. This is part of a federally funded project that requires Nome to fund 4.5% of the project before it will continue. The total project is estimated at around $5 million. Ken Morton, who formally worked with the DOT, explains how the City is expected to contribute:   

“This is a federal highway project. It’s 91% federally funded by tax dollars, by fuel tax dollars. The remaining 9% that’s required, the state is splitting that by 50% with the city. The reason that the project scored to get on the radar is that the city agreed to make that contribution.” 

The City committed to the project in 2012 , but since then, the DOT has increased the cost of design for the project, requiring more money. At the suggestion of Manager Handeland, the council approved the $30,500 to advance the current stage of the Port Road Improvements project.  

Public safety continued to be a topic of discussion as Manager Handeland updated the Council and public on the status of body cameras for police officers.

“We’re in the testing phase for the body cams. They’ve got pretty darn good resolution on them and wide range. We’re still vetting with the attorney the policies on these, but that will be ready after the first of the year.”

Lisa Ellanna of Nome brought forth a letter from former Governor Bill Walker addressed to Mayor Beneville and Melanie Bahnke of Kawerak. The letter mentioned that the Department of Public Safety has offered assistance to Nome. One of these outcomes is that the 126 untested Nome rape kits will be in the first batch of kits the Crime Lab tests in Bode this December. Alaska State Troopers will work with Nome Police to make sure that victims of sexual assault can report anonymously in compliance with HB 31.

Also during the meeting, the Council spoke conferenced with State Assesor Marty McGee to analyze Nome’s Full Value Determination (FVD). As the FVD is used to determine the city’s required contribution for public education, the city decided it will do an audit to ensure the numbers are accurate for next year.  City Clerk Bryant Hammond explains the difference on how real and personal property are currently audited:

“Personal property has always been a complete honor system. We distribute a yellow sheet to everyone in town… the way that our tax code is currently written. This affects everyone in town. Snowmachines, four wheelers, and boats are all taxable.” 

Additional business included a resolution approving Chip Leeper to act as City Manager during John Handeland’s absence from December 16-24, 2018. The next City Council meeting will be held in January.

Image at top: An Alaska Airlines jet takes off at the Nome airport. Scheduled repairs to the Nome jet runway were among the discussions at the Nome City Council meeting on Dec. 10, 2018. Photo: David Dodman, used with permission.

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