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Nome Citizens Urge City Council to Prioritize Public Safety in First Meeting of 2019

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

The new year was off to a busy start during Monday night’s Nome City Council meeting (Jan. 14), as the council discussed budgets, legislative priorities, and presided over two oaths of office for the Nome Police Department.

Bob Pruckner, of Chesterfield, Virginia, joins NPD as an investigator. Vincent Nguyen was sworn in as a police officer and will be leaving in February for training at the academy in Sitka.

Nome citizens have not forgotten the public safety advisory committee. Though a work session was held on the matter on November 26, 2018, public safety has not been on the city council agenda since that time. John Handeland, acting city manager, explained that the city’s attorney, Brooks Chandler, will be in Nome on February 18 and 19 to facilitate a community meeting.

“This is to develop the legal framework for a public safety committee. He is probably not an expert on sexual assault and domestic violence but would be on the process and establishment of a committee. We will pull in other resources, if necessary. Developing the framework that’s going to be in an ordinance should be started with legal counsel in the beginning rather than at the end.”

Nome resident Keith Morrison asked if the city’s attorney was an expert is sexual assault and domestic violence, citing that those have been the chief concerns amongst citizens when it comes to public safety matters.

Lisa Ellana inquired about NPD trainings, asking whether or not officers were going through trauma-informed training on how to interview victims who have experienced trauma, particularly domestic violence and sexual assault. Officer Justin Le was present at the time and confirmed that the police officers had recently received such training with Katie Tepaz of the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

Also on the agenda was the approval of Nome’s 2019 state and federal legislative priorities. Citizens’ comments on public safety prompted Councilmember Topkok to move to amend those to include sexual assault and domestic violence.

“I guess when I saw these documents, my first thought was, ‘here’s the paper we hold up to the state and federal government saying, “Here’s the list of our priorities, where we need funding,”’ and to include that with all of these other, granted there’s specific infrastructure needs that have dollar amounts attached to them. But public safety is a really big issue in this community and has been, so adding it, I thought, was appropriate.”

Councilmember Brown supported the motion by adding that it could potentially “open the door” for the city to receive more funding from state and federal entities. 

The agenda originally included five ordinances regarding budget amendments for fiscal year 2019. Finance director for the City of Nome, Julie Liew, was at the meeting to speak on the budget.

“The budget amendments that have been brought forward to you for consideration essentially increase our budget deficit from $1.6 million to over $2 million, largely due to the request from the Nome Police department for additional staff as well as additional funds on vehicle maintenance and training.”

She suggested that the council vote to move those ordinances to a second reading so that they could be discussed further during a work session. The council voted unanimously to approve Liew’s suggestion.

During the regularly scheduled utility manager’s report, Ken Morton said that Nome Joint Utilities Service is working on a mobile app that would allow customers to track usage and billing. They hope to have that as an option sometime this spring.

Also discussed were updates on the city manager search and the city audit of personal property taxes. Handeland explained that the city attempted to contact all applicants, and the applicant pool now stands at 10 people. City Clerk Bryant Hammond said that the city is working on establishing an audit to ensure that residents are reporting personal property taxes correctly.  

The next meeting of the Nome Common Council will be January 28 at 7pm in City Hall.

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