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Youth Member Could Join City Council, Police Chief Could Leave Nome Sooner

Double doors with a small placard reading "Council Chambers."

After months of listening to comments from the public and councilmembers, the Nome City Council is moving forward on getting a youth representative.

In their re-scheduled regular meeting Wednesday night [10/30], the Council went over a first reading of an ordinance that would designate a non-voting Nome student as a youth Council member. That student would be involved in Council discussions and contribute a youth perspective.

But Nome-Beltz students already have their own ideas on how to get multiple youth perspectives involved, as high school junior Molly Kenick explains:

“We will have meetings during lunch and after school the day of the city council meetings so that we will have an agenda and we will know what to talk about during the meetings.”

Kenick suggested that a body of students work on ideas to bring to the Council, like a small student commission. The exact role of the youth representative will be discussed more during the next City Council meeting, after Councilmember Topkok has collaborated further with students at Nome-Beltz high school.

NPS Superintendent Jamie Burgess presents housing grant requirements to the Nome City Council. Photo by Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2019).

Nome Public Schools were also represented in the meeting by superintendent Jamie Burgess who presented during the City Manager’s report. Burgess is working on procuring an Alaska Housing Finance Corporation grant for more teacher housing and that requires petitioning the City Council for land.

“You could do this contingent upon the grant award if you feel that is absolutely necessary, although I hope the City will continue supporting us in moving forward and then we would have further conversations about possibly financing the rest of the building.”

If the city is going to dispose of land to Nome schools, that must be done quickly as the grant application is due December 15th and that process involves an ordinance or resolution being drafted. Burgess put forward the skating rink on 3rd Avenue and Steadman, or Rusty Park as potential lots.

Burgess says she’s been talking to Sitnasuak Native Corporation for financing and that the school also has money in its apartment fund, but the City could also support the project financially.

Also, in the City Manager’s report, Interim City Manager John Handeland noted that Nome Police Chief Bob Estes will likely be leaving his position on November 8th.  Before that, NPD will be having an outside Management Audit conducted by Russell Consulting, LLC.

“Out of that, we’ll end up with some reports or validations of requests that have been made.”

– John Handeland

Handeland says the same firm will soon be doing an evidence audit. In the redacted copy of the Operating Procedures Manual, Handeland shared that NPD should be having unannounced audits. In an e-mail to KNOM, Chief Estes stated he is unaware of any such outside audits being conducted recently. Handeland says Jennifer Griggs of the Department of Public Safety was also in Nome recently to conduct some evidence and policy assessments at NPD, and Estes confirmed that DPS visited NPD to do an evidence inventory.

The City is currently soliciting for interim police chiefs but until one is found, Deputy Police Chief Mike Heintzelman will fill that role.

During citizens’ comments Zoe Okleasik and Anna Ashenfelter proposed the Council investigate a single-use plastic ban. After hearing their concerns, the Council directed Bryant Hammond, the city clerk, to look into examples and past attempts at such a ban in Nome.

In other business, the Council authorized a $5,000,000 note for the purchase of fuel. The Council also passed a first reading for an ordinance to change the plurality requirements in a municipal election to 40% plus one rather than 50% plus one.

The next regular City Council Meeting is scheduled for November 11th and should be the first meeting with Nome’s new City Manager, Glenn Steckman.

Image at top: The entrance to the Nome City Council chambers. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2019).