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Budgets, Lighting, and a New Fire Chief at City Council

Fire Chief Jim West Jr. (left), Mayor Denise Michels, and former Acting Chief Jerry Steiger.

Budgets and other fiscal business were the topic of conversation at Monday night’s Nome City Council meeting, with special emphasis on finding a solution to the lack of lighting on Nome’s Snake River Bridge.

The state Department of Transportation has $2 million to add lights to the new bridge, but City Council members say the state’s unhurried pace would leave a lighting solution months if not years away. The council is now directing the city utility to install temporary lighting of its own on both sides of the bridge.

“If we can do it in-house, and we’ll be happy for temporary [lighting] as opposed to spending DOT money, that seems like a good way to approach it,” council member Matt Culley said.

That would free up the state’s $2 million—and DOT designers—to fold the permanent lighting fix into the larger project of realigning Center Creek Road, commonly called the “jail road.”

In other business, the council approved some budgetary bookkeeping, bringing its balance sheet in line with official revenue numbers. Overall the city took in $11.1 million, down from last year’s $11.3 million in revenue. The drop in revenue came as city expenses grew by about $94,000 over the same time period.

On recommendation from the utility board, the council voted to accept $8 million in loans from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for water and sewer upgrades throughout town.

Congressional Representative Don Young stopped by the city council meeting to talk deep water arctic ports and other federal projects. Rep. Young stressed the role earmarks in Washington play in those projects.

“Most small areas in this state have been ignored because, quite frankly, you don’t have the horsepower,” Young said, referring to the tendency for state funding to head to urban areas. “We have federal dollars involved. The congressman, the Senators, have a right to designate those dollars into smaller communities. Because that is where it should be going.”

Closing out the meeting, the council approved a new head for the fire department: Jim West Jr. was on hand to accept the role as chief of the Nome Volunteer Fire Department. With 31 years of experience, West was recommended unanimously by Nome firefighters to serve as the department’s new chief.