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Research Consortium Releases Findings From April Visit to Nome

Jim Powell addresses residents at the Mini Convention Center about studies being conducted in Nome. Sarah Swartz photo.
Gay Sheffield arranges sticky notes with notes at the Wednesday lunch meeting. Sarah Swartz photo.

A comprehensive summary of citizens’ concerns and comments regarding upcoming changes in Nome was released last week by the Nome Coordinated Research Consortium (NCRC). The group hosted two community workshops in April to gather community input on infrastructure, economics, and climate change relating to the Nome port expansion project, mining, and the prospective increase of tourism.

Jim Powell leads the consortium and hopes the group’s outreach efforts can help them understand the challenges facing Nome better. 

“There’s cruise tourism that we’re focusing on, there’s the port itself, there’s infrastructure, there’s mining, there’s economics, and then there’s governance itself. We’re trying to close the gap, increase our knowledge through people’s perceptions and knowledge and expertise,” Powell said. 

Mixed feelings about the Nome port expansion project drew the highest concerns and comments among those in attendance. Many expressed confusion due to a lack of transparency with its plans. Others stated that little information is provided to the general public. A collective opinion was raised that Nome’s infrastructure is insufficient for economic growth. Both work groups voiced that Nome’s most critical issue is its current housing crisis. Jobs, education, subsistence, and health and safety were integral areas of focus also needing improvement.

As this was the first time the NCRC met with the public, some attendees were unsure of what to expect at the meetings. Retired business owner Jeff Darling attended one of the sessions. He was initially disappointed by the absence of port officials and that discussions didn’t include expenditure reports for the port expansion project.

“I was just basically trying to see what the story was for this massive amount of money that we’re getting ready to spend on the port,” Darling said.

Julio Postigo visits with resident Joee Haugen. Sarah Swartz photo.

Other guests shared in Darling’s frustration, feeling disappointed that more officials representing large scale projects in Nome were not in attendance contributing to the conversation.

With the many complexities revolving around Nome’s future development, the NCRC plans to return to Nome as early as this fall to meet again with the public to gather more information now that the first summary is complete. The NCRC encourages residents to join them at their next visit, bringing with them as many new voices as they can. Darling hopes to be part of that group.

“I’ll definitely go back for the next meeting they have and I want to hear what they came up with. And if we can use that to work for the better in our community,” Darling said. 

The NCRC also shared that they will be creating a website to make their work more accessible. A means to communicate questions, comments, and concerns are also planned for the new website. A release date for the website has not yet been determined. A copy of the full report can be accessed here.

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