Council Chambers were packed at Nome City Hall earlier this week as local leaders took turns presenting before the City Council. The object: Earn some of the coveted community funding donated by NSEDC.
This year, the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation provided $150,000 for the community benefit share program. Now, the City Council has to decide who gets how much.
The annual donation is distributed among “projects that promise to benefit the community,” and this year, the City Council received 22 public proposals. Organizations vying for the funds range from the Bering Sea Women’s Group and Kawerak to NEST, Nome Public Schools, and the Iron Dog snowmachine race.
Many applicants made their pitches in person at the meeting Monday night, and Council member Lew Tobin said he was pleased at the turnout.
“Since I’ve lived in Nome, I’ve always been amazed and really proud of all the people that volunteer their time and efforts to make this town a better place,” he said. “At this work session, it was really nice to see that.”
However, not every group will get money it wants. The 22 funding requests add up to almost $290,000 — nearly double the donation available.
While Council member Tom Sparks said he’d love to give each organization everything it needs, he and his colleagues have some difficult decisions to make. That’s why he wants the Council to create a system for selecting who gets funding and who doesn’t.
“I do like the idea of coming up with some sort of policy for ranking,” he said. “I don’t mind saying ‘no’ to people, but I look at $150,000 a year and that’s real money. So there may be some things we want to do besides play Santa Claus in January.”
No matter what, though, Council member Matt Culley said it’ll be impossible to please every group.
“When you sit at this table, you’re elected to make those decisions,” he said. “NSEDC comes to us: ‘What do we think benefits the community?’ It’s hard. It’s a subjective topic. If ranking would make it easier, yes. But that can still be biased, because you’re ranking it.”
And there’s no guarantee the Council will even distribute every available dollar to this year’s applicants. The City can reserve any amount of the money for different donations or other costs.
Council member Stan Andersen had an example: “One thing that’s not on here is the $10,000 we’ve always given to the Iditarod Trail, so that should be in there.”
The City Council will debate which organizations should receive funding during their Thursday night work session at 7 p.m.. The final decisions will be announced at their next regular meeting on Jan. 25.