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Nome Common Council Prepares for Potential Increase in COVID Infection Rate

A long table with a gavel resting on it. American flag in background.

The Nome Common Council made no changes on Monday night regarding the lack of required COVID-19 testing at Nome Airport, but planned for potential future mitigations.

The city continues to encourage residents to get vaccinated and to take other measures to slow the spread of the virus, such as masking in public indoor spaces. City Manager Glenn Steckman drafted an emergency declaration requiring masking in public spaces, but said it would only go into effect in the event of a significant uptick in case rates.

“The virus has started to spread primarily in school-age children and young people up to the age of 30. …So that’ll be probably the indicator, if all of a sudden we start seeing some more children coming down with COVID, then we’ll start taking more aggressive measures to try to control the spread,” Steckman said.

Mayor John Handeland expressed optimism that vaccination rates would soon increase due to the recent announcement of the Food and Drug Administration granting full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. Even so, the council should be ready to act, Handeland said.

“I think we need to be open minded on it, and monitor the situation very closely. Each time we meet, we should have this discussion and, if necessary, have a meeting in between,” Handeland said.

The mayor directed City Clerk Bryant Hammond to draft an ordinance to extend the declaration of a local emergency in the city.

In other council business, the city will purchase the empty lot across from city hall, which is currently used as a parking lot. This will help foster economic growth on Front Street. There are other parcels of land that the city should look into acquiring as well, Steckman said.

“The goal is to try to attract a developer who would like to develop the parcel versus [it] being a parking lot. … If we’re going to foster redevelopment on Front Street, we need to acquire the property to help get it done,” Steckman said.

The council authorized the Nome Winter Sports Association to locate a double-wide trailer on the empty lot next to the Nome Recreation Center. Norton Sound Health Corporation donated the trailer, which NWSA will use for storage while the lot is developed into an ice skating rink. Once the rink is in place, NWSA plans to use the trailer to house locker rooms and restrooms. The new rink will not be ready this winter, but there will be a rink at last year’s location, at the corner of East Third Avenue and Steadman Street, Steckman said.

The council also voted to extend the Nome Rotary Club’s lease on East End Park for the next ten years.

All council members voted down a potential rate change for outbound shipments of gravel.

The Nome Common Council will meet next on Sept. 13.

Image at top: City of Nome Council Chambers. Photo: Brisa Alarcon, KNOM

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