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A New Commission and a New Report: Public Safety and the Deep Draft Port Keep Moving

City of Nome Council Chambers. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus; KNOM
City of Nome Council Chambers. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus; KNOM

The City of Nome has a new commission on the books after the City Council passed an ordinance Monday night to create a Public Safety Commission.

Lisa Ellanna and Darlene Trigg of Nome are just two of the many community members who have come forward in the last year: advocating, fighting for, and working with the City to create this public safety commission.

Lisa: “I’d like to commend all of you for working as hard as you have with the community, it’s been a real rough go.”

Darlene: “I really want to commend you all for the time that you’ve taken to really put this forward.”

The final version of the ordinance incorporates recommendations from the American Civil Liberties Union and includes language about required training for commissioners. Despite the collaborative success, Ellanna did mention that this commission is only a “small step” towards solving the community’s issues.

As per the ACLU’s suggestions, the Police Chief and City Manager are not ex-officio members. The commission will be made up of nine community members who are appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council. The ordinance requires that the City attempt to have the commission reflect “the cultural, racial, and gender makeup of the community.”

Both City Manager John Handeland and Councilmember Meghan Topkok worked with the City Attorney, Brooks Chandler, to create the final draft, measuring the ACLU suggestions with the Nome Code of Ordinances to create a document that would work for the City.

The ordinance passed unanimously.

Not all present during last night’s meeting were happy with the City. Jessica Farley of Nome came forward during citizen’s comments claiming that the city had cost her thousands of dollars by issuing incorrect building certificates. She says that, after her experience dealing with the City on this matter, enough is enough.

“One of the things that I’d like the city to consider doing is to allow private citizens who are re-modeling to go out and contract privately with licensed building instructors in lieu of working with the city, because the city has demonstrated that they have neither the capacity nor competency to issue building permits.”

Farley said that the last home she re-modeled and sold garnered Nome $8,000 in taxes. She suggests that with a revised permitting process, the City would actually be able to net more tax money if it were easier for citizens to rehab Nome’s many old and unoccupied homes.

Colby Engstrom of Nome also came forward with similar frustrations about improperly issued permits that have delayed his plans to open a laundromat on Front Street in the former Twin Dragon restaurant building. The City Manager said he would speak with Farley and Engstrom privately, and the council did not discuss anything more on permitting.

Overall, the City Council meeting had a short agenda. The Council passed two resolutions without much discussion. The first approves the Appraisal Company of Alaska for Ad Valorum Tax Services through the year 2022. The second authorizes an agreement with McCool Carlson Green for design services of the roof on Nome-Beltz High School.

Port Director Joy Baker was present and had some big port news. The army corps port feasibility study is now available for public review.

“I encourage everybody to review it.”

The report is available online and at City Hall for public comment until June 6.

The next City Council meeting is May 28.

Image at top: City of Nome council chambers. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus; KNOM file.

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