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Council Discusses Solutions for Census Undercount, Approves NPD Investigator

Nome City Council gathered during regular meeting on August 24th, 2020. (Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM)

The City of Nome is considering taking actions of its own to get Nome citizens counted for the 2020 Census. 

City Manager Glenn Steckman told the Nome City Council during their regular meeting on Monday that only 31% of Nome’s population has been counted so far for the census. He says that undercount could cost Nome millions in federal dollars over the next ten years. Counting efforts by the Census Bureau end on September 30th and Steckman says he hasn’t heard any official word from the Census Bureau on where they’ve visited. 

“We need cooperation from them. We don’t even have where they’ve been. We just know that supposedly half the town was visited, at least that’s the number that I’ve heard.”

– Glenn Steckman

The council discussed the possibility of using city staff to either go door knocking or set up a stand in town to get residents counted. Since they believe the count has been slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic, the council even discussed using around $5000 of their CARES Act funding for the effort. 

Ultimately, the council directed the City Manager to find funding solutions for the issue which Councilmember Meghan Siġvanna Topkok sees as a worthwhile investment. 

“I think a little bit of money set aside now is going to pay off if we can boost our numbers and get a more accurate census count.”

– Meghan Topkok

Nome residents can fill out the Census online today and be counted that way through October at https://2020census.gov/.

So far, the city budget is looking healthy as the finance department continues to crunch numbers for the end of fiscal year 2020. While Manager Steckman does note that some of Nome’s revenue streams are down significantly, like local hotel tax, that isn’t true across the board. 

“The sales tax revenue came in higher than we anticipated or budgeted. We were conservative on that budget number but a lot of that comes from internet sales tax to help make up that difference so I think that is a positive.”

– Glenn Steckman

Final budget numbers for FY’20 are due in October. 

As far as Monday night’s business items, the council approved Scott Weaver of Florida, formerly of the Polk County Police Department, to join the Nome Police Department as a full-time investigator. The force has been calling for an experienced investigator to handle backlogged sexual assault cases. 

The council also approved the hire of another dispatcher or communications officer to help with the increased volume of calls that NPD is reporting.

As Nome moves forward with COVID-19 economic recovery efforts, the council heard the first numbers on businesses that applied for City of Nome grants. Steckman reported 59 businesses applied and if all of them are approved there would still be about $200,000 leftover. 

“The majority of the applications were on the low end: $1500-3500. There were a few $20,000 but most of them were on the low-end.”

– Glenn Steckman

That left-over money could be added to the half a million allocated for Nome’s small businesses during the third tranche of municipal CARES Act relief.

Image at top: Members of the Nome City Council gathered during regular meeting on August 24th, 2020. (Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM)

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