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In 3-2 Vote, City Council Declines to House Sex Offenders at Nome’s Halfway House

The Seaside Center is owned and operated by Geo Reentry Services, which purchased and renovated the new facility for more than $4 million. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.

Following more than an hour of discussion on the topic, the Nome City Council decided not to allow sex offenders who are actively receiving treatment to stay at the Seaside halfway house.

Lance Johnson with Behavioral Health Services at Norton Sound Health Corporation was one of the first to address the Council on the issue during last night’s regular meeting. Johnson had a clarification point to make about sex offender treatment.

“I wanted to dispel any notion that BHS is able to or is providing sexual offender treatment services in this region. You have to be an approved provider to do that, and we do not have one right now; we have one who is currently looking to be approved here in February, but not currently approved.”

Most of the public comments revolved around sex offender treatment or the security of Seaside, as Nome resident Denise Gilroy summarizes:

“Two things that are really important that I’ve been hearing people talk about and I’ve really been listening, I think what Trinh is saying is the location. And so if that is an issue, which has been brought up quite a bit, then I think the guarantee of security is really important. And I think setting in stone the treatment is really important, because I think what Lance just said kind of threw me through a loop.”

Even though BHS won’t provide treatment for sex offenders, one unnamed individual from the community has been approved by the Alaska Department of Corrections and will provide some treatment services directly at Anvil Mountain Correctional Center. Adam Rutherford, the Chief Mental Health Officer with D.O.C., explains:

“We actually do have, for the first time ever, an approved sexual offender treatment provider there in the Nome area that is a local individual. And that’s why we are starting the program at Anvil Mountain, as well.”

Those opposed to housing sex offenders at Seaside, like Melissa Ford, seemed to support efforts to provide treatment for sex offenders at AMCC, but not at the halfway house:

“I think what we’ve seen happen here is we’ve created a moral issue out of a fiscal issue. We keep hearing ‘treatment, treatment, treatment,’ but it’s about filling beds. That’s even what the ordinance says: it’s about filling beds. When Dean Williams came here with his blackmail, it was about ‘you will do this, or we will close it (Seaside) down.’ So, it’s a fiscal issue that we are talking about.”

Before making their final decision on the ordinance, the Council passed an amendment that would have allowed certain sex offenders to be housed at Seaside for treatment and limit the terms of their stay at the facility. Here’s City Clerk Bryant Hammond reading through the amendment:

“An agreement by applicant that they will not take for placement any untreated sex offenders except those actively receiving treatment, and are from the Nome region, are classified as low risk, and will be confined to Seaside for the duration of their treatment phase.”

After approving the amendment to the ordinance, all five present councilmen then voted on the main motion. Councilmen Adam Martinson, Stan Anderson, and Mark Johnson said no, while Doug Johnson and Gerald Brown said yes. Councilman Lew Tobin was absent from the meeting.

In other business, the City Council passed an amended version of the other ordinance in the second reading phase. Individuals who live on the Nome-road system and are 18 years or older are now eligible to serve as Port Commissioners. The amended version also requires that an already appointed commissioner, who currently serves as mayor or as a council member, must vacate their seat on the Port Commission.

Before adjourning last night’s meeting, Mayor Richard Beneville recommended that Russell Rowe be appointed to the vacant seat on the Port Commission and Jessica Farley be reappointed to her seat on the Planning Commission. Both nominations and all other business on the agenda passed.

Nome’s City Council will convene for their next regular meeting on January 8th of 2018.

Image at top: file photo: Nome’s Seaside Center. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.