Nome Police Chief John Papasodora secured three more years as head of the city’s police department after a Friday meeting of the Nome City Council renewed his tenure. Also at the meeting, outgoing city manager Josie Bahnke outlined projects and goals for the city as she departs to head up the state Division of Elections in Juneau.
The four council members at the meeting voted unanimously to renew Chief Papasodora’s contract for another three years, with an annual salary of $115,000.
On the job since 2009, the chief said he’ll continue his focus on community policing.
“It’s measured in the way the community responds to the police department,” Chief Papasodora said during the meeting, addressing the council from the podium. “It’s evolving a relationship between the community and the police officers who are serving them, because the people can see we’re not just there to put handcuffs on them, and put them in jail; we want to make their lives better, we want to give them the opportunity to do better, we want to give them the opportunity to more or less modify their own behavior.”
With the department more fully staffed than it has been in years, Chief Papasodora delivered an assessment of NPD to the council, citing overall a “stable” police force. That leaves room for specialty programs, like school resources and a new K9 unit, but the chief said one of the loftier goals for the next three years will be working to integrate the police with the volunteer fire and ambulance departments.
“It makes sense to try to build a parent agency, the Department of Public Safety, where everyone maintains their identity and maintains their purpose,” Papasodora said, stressing there were no formal plans to consolidate the three departments.
“But [the goal would be] they get a better level of support and consistency, so that their jobs are easier. That’s the whole point in doing this. The people are the volunteer fire department, volunteer ambulance department. They give every day. If we can find a way to make their jobs easier and give something back, I think it’s to the benefit of everybody,” he added.
The first step toward any kind of consolidation, Papasodora added, would be to combine the administrative work for fire, ambulance, and police.
Outgoing city manager Josie Bahnke ended Friday’s meeting, with a broad assessment of city projects, everything from the future of the deep-draft port to the Richard Foster Building to maintaining the White Alice Towers.
Bahnke highlighted other concerns that ultimately fall to the city manager that she says the council and the city will have to reckon with in the coming years. She said formalizing the city’s approach to its cemetery should be a priority.
“Our office has been working on the more technical things, as well as helping families out and picking out burial plots and walking around and taking on that role,” she said.
“My recommendation was for the mayor to appoint an ad hoc cemetery committee. It’s kind of a bigger task than the planning commission can effectively take on,” she added.
Bahnke paused. “It needs to happen,” she said solemnly. “Our residents who are moving up there deserve it.”
Two members of Nome Rotary, as well as city staff, have volunteered to lead up the committee. Incoming city manager Tom Moran will officially be at the reins at tonight’s council meeting, overseeing an agenda approving a new city clerk and setting up the October city elections.