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City of Nome plans to waive permit fees, tackle local emergency services

Full one third of Nome's structures are abandoned, the city's planning commission found. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.
Full one third of Nome's structures are abandoned, the city's planning commission found. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

The Nome Common Council on Monday discussed further measures to encourage construction and renovation in the city. A new proposed ordinance would waive certain permit fees for any construction project valued at less than 500 thousand dollars.

The council has recently passed similar ordinances, but those specifically benefited new housing construction. This latest ordinance is broader; it waives fees for any construction within city limits under 500 thousand dollars. The fees the new ordinance proposes to waive are the remodeling, building, electrical and mechanical permit fees.

City Manager Glenn Steckman made a point of mentioning that regardless of what fees might be waived, the building permits themselves are still necessary.

“I think everybody needs to understand that no matter what program, you’re still going to have to file a permit. Because we have to know what’s going on in the community. So I know we’re hearing waiver fees. That’s totally different from still having to get a permit,” Steckman said.

The council will vote on the new ordinance at its next meeting. If passed as written, the ordinance will go into effect immediately and remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2025. However, Council Member Scot Henderson proposed an amendment to extend the end date to 2027. The council will vote on amendments next week as well.

In other business, the council passed a resolution formally stating its support for the Nome Community Center’s Community Development Block Grant Application. This would help fund the HomePlate housing project.

The council also renewed the city’s contract with Legislative Consultants in Alaska, the organization that lobbies the state government on Nome’s behalf.

Stephanie Nielson, a volunteer paramedic for NVAD, spoke out about the ambulance department’s needs during the July 11 Nome City Council meeting. Photo from Sean Milligan, KNOM (2022).

During the public comment period, Nome volunteer paramedic Stephanie Nielson made an impassioned plea to the council to change the city’s approach to emergency services.

“Gentlemen, tonight, there was an ambulance call that was toned out six times and nobody went. And nobody went because we are overburdened, we do not have a paid service. And we, as a city, have allowed a very small minority of users to abuse the service and burn us out,” Nielson explained.

Nome maintains NVAD, a mostly-volunteer ambulance service, and unnecessary calls have overworked the volunteers to the breaking point, Nielson said. Nome needs to transition to a paid service, where EMTs would be obligated to respond to every call, according to Nielson. Without that obligation, she worries that overworked volunteers might let the wrong call slip through the cracks, resulting in tragedy. She shared a story of just one such close call.

“I’m going to tell you, I’ve got a couple of people — of our Front Street regulars — that I’ve gone ‘Oh, not them again.’ And I’ve gone [to the scene] expecting it to be what it always was. And I darn near intubated one of them in the truck,” said Nielson.

The council plans to schedule a work session in the near future to discuss possible solutions to address the city’s emergency services needs.

The next regular meeting of the Nome Common Council is scheduled for Monday, July 25, at 7 p.m. As always, Nome residents are encouraged to attend and comment.

Image at top: Full one third of Nome’s structures are abandoned, the city’s planning commission found. Building permits could be waived for all construction within Nome if the City Council approves a new ordinance next meeting. Photo by Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

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