The Nome City Council’s discussion about housing sex-offenders at the Seaside center will continue, at least for another two weeks.
During last night’s regular meeting, an ordinance to change the Nome Code of Ordinances to allow sex offenders who are actively receiving treatment to be housed at Seaside was on the agenda. This piece of business garnered input from multiple people, including Barbara Cromwell, a forensics nurse with the Norton Sound Health Corporation.
Cromwell works directly with the victims of sexual assault and other abuses.
“And I’m actually speaking up in support of having sex offender treatment here. Because how it is right now is we’re very lucky if we get a sex offender to be prosecuted and convicted and then to go to a place where there is treatment. Very frequently that’s not the case and they don’t get any treatment at all, and those people do return to Nome and to the villages, so they are coming home anyway.”
Cromwell also mentioned that Behavioral Health Services is working on their own treatment program for sex offenders that will be offered separately from Seaside’s contract.
Nome resident Melissa Ford stated that treatment for sex offenders won’t make a difference.
“I’m here to speak out against housing sex offenders at Seaside. One of the big things is I think it’s utterly naïve to think that six months of treatment is going to have any effect at all on a pedophile or rapist. So I am totally against doing that. Not only that, but I think Seaside itself has some issues, and I’ve been pretty vocal about my opposition of this.”
Then Cathy Hall with BHS, who has worked with sex offenders since 2009, addressed Ford and the packed council chambers directly.
“My heart really goes out to you, because I have a lot of the same concerns that you do. But I really believe that we all want healthy people and we want healthy communities, and this is the way we do that, by shining a light on this, starting to talk about it and to provide the treatment. Like Barb said, we are not going to be harmed, no one will be harmed when we are providing this treatment.”
When it came time to vote, the Council was split three-to-three. The tiebreaker vote came down to Mayor Richard Beneville, who voted yes in favor of moving the ordinance on to the second reading phase.
Also going to the second reading phase is an ordinance to change the criteria for people to be eligible to join the Nome Port Commission. The current rules state that only a Nome city voter is eligible to be a commissioner; however, the Council wants to allow any person eighteen years or older who lives on the Nome road system to be eligible to be a Port commissioner.
As Port Director Joy Baker sees it, this is a much-needed change.
“I can make it short and sweet. I completely agree: we’ve got a number of users living outside the city limits who have expressed interest over the years in serving and then (are) significantly disappointed when they find out there are limitations to that. So I think it’s a great move and high time that we put this in place.”
Through a formal resolution, Nome’s City Council voted in favor of honoring former Councilman Tom Sparks for his twenty years of service to the City. Other approved business included a labor agreement between the City and the City of Nome Employees Association (CNEA).
Before approving the agreement, Councilman Stan Anderson had a few words to say about it first.
“It’s a negotiated contract, but I think the public ought to know what they are getting, and it’s 5% for the first year, but on top of that 5%, they get 3.5%, so it’s an 8.5% increase. The other thing I’d like to point out, we’re not just doing the pay raise but also giving every one of them $500 a year.”
City Manager Tom Moran stated that the $500 is an annual bonus that all union employees receive, and the wage increase for city employees was a flat 5% increase this time rather than a gradual increase of 2% every year for the next three years, so CNEA gave up some things to get this agreement.
Nome’s City Council will convene again on December 11th for their next regularly scheduled meeting.
Image at top: The Council discussed housing sex offenders at Seaside during its latest regular meeting. Photo Credit: Davis Hovey, KNOM (2017).