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Nome City Council Talks Abatements, Advances Proposal to Raise Hotel Tax

City of Nome Council Chambers. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus; KNOM

Monday night’s Nome City Council meeting was met with citizens’ concerns over property abatements.

In particular, one Nome resident and property owner, David Csiki, was concerned with the condition and follow through of 604 E. Front Street.

“We have this certain perception among the community that certain individuals, city fathers, are exempt from the same standards as the rest of us.”

The deadline for properties to be in repair was July 1st. Csiki claimed that trash accumulation and changes made to the structure not only were inadequate, but also posed a public safety risk. After much discussion, the council admits that more needs to be done. City Manager Tom Moran concluded by saying,

“I think we can go with a little bit heavier hand and make sure that a certain amount of renovations are done and the building is in a position that can be remediated, and if not, we can make him cut his losses.”

In other business on Monday night, the Council also discussed two ordinances about proposed taxes. These would go into effect January 1, 2019. The first would increase Nome hotel/motel room taxes from 6% to 10%. This tax would include Airbnb rentals. The Council voted to continue discussion in a second reading at the next meeting. If the ordinance passes the second reading, it will go on the October ballot for residents to vote.

A second ordinance for a voter referendum on a vehicle rental tax of ten percent did not pass. The tax would have raised funds for the Visitor Center. While the tax was meant to be aimed at out-of-town visitors who would rent vehicles, the council acknowledged that most of the vehicle rental business is comprised of Nome residents. So the council expressed concern that the burden of this tax would fall on the citizens of Nome. Further discussion of funds for the Visitor Center will continue at the next meeting.

The meeting concluded with hopeful remarks from Mayor Richard Beneville. He expressed optimism that the City is working towards addressing deep issues, like cultural trauma, while moving towards a brighter economic future.

“There are lots of issues, so sometimes, we tend to want to fight those, but I think those are good signs, good signs for the future. We’re looking at further growth, and we’re bringing some things to the fore that maybe we haven’t before. Some of them are real painful, like historical trauma; it has an effect on us. A majority of our citizens are Native Alaskan, and we have to listen to that… and that is a good thing, painful in certain areas, but it’s a good thing.”

The next City Council meeting is July 23.

Image at top: City of Nome Council Chambers. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus, KNOM.