Frustrated with vessel owners who put off paying fees to the last minute, officials at the Port of Nome discussed changing the city’s impound process at last night’s regular Port Commission meeting.
During the last Port meeting of the year, Harbormaster Lucas Stotts summarized why the impound process should be changed:
“What we’re seeing is the same folks, with the same vessels, same containers, year after year. Right before it goes to sale, they pay; they get it out of hock. Then they ignore all their bills again for a whole ‘nother year, until I go and do more rounds of impoundment. And we just do this every single year.”
Stotts hopes to expedite the impoundment process to curb repeat offenders. The current system requires a series of notifications and hearings that can take up to 90 days before the city is authorized to sell impounded property. But, Stotts added, they typically wait until spring to make the sales, when there are more likely to be interested buyers—and the delinquent owners can step in any moment before that and clear their debts. At least until next year.
Calling in to the meeting, Port Director Joy Baker emphasized that the Port is very accommodating of owners who work with the Port in good faith to pay their fees, but struggling with the same users year after year is a waste of time and resources:
“For those that want to legitimately work out a payment plan and reliably make those payments, we’ll work with them, and we’re doing that. But for those that continue to avoid you, and continue to leave their gear on Port property, we’re just looking for another mechanism, is all.”
Baker said the initial conversation with a city lawyer about revising the impound process got complicated quickly, so this is just the beginning of the process. No decisions were made last night.
Earlier in the evening, Chairman Jim West, Jr., opened the meeting to public comment: “Looks like we have a concerned citizen in a Santa outfit.”
That concerned citizen was Colby Engstrom, who recently received a $50,000 small business grant from the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation to establish a laundromat and shower facility in Nome. He hopes to locate Sea Laundry at the port.
However, as Engstrom shared with the Commission, he recently hit a bump:
“I found out that where Joy [Baker] and I had proposed to put the facility, there’s not water or sewage lines right there, so it’s not going to work as it sits right now. I’ve talked to three other people recently that have properties available for rent that I could utilize for that endeavor, but I would really much rather it be around the port. It’s going to serve the city of Nome, but there’s also going to be a lot of port traffic that it would affect, so I’d like to work with all of you guys and see if we can figure something out.”
In other business, last night was the first meeting for brand new Port Commissioner Russel Rowe, who was appointed to Seat E by the City Council on Monday. Rowe, whose family owns Bering Air, mentioned that his father had also once served on the Nome Port Commission.
Rowe was sworn in by Harbormaster Stotts.
The Nome Port Commission will next meet in the new year, on January 18th.
Image at top: The Nome Port Commission at their regular meeting on Dec. 14, 2017. Photo: Zoe Grueskin/KNOM.