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Revelations at City Council Meeting on NPD Equipment, Garbage Disposal, and Foxes

The Nome City Council authorized the Nome Police Department’s requests for an upgraded order of tasers, via resolution, during their regular meeting on Monday night.

Acting Chief Mike Heintzelman explained to KNOM that the police department found that the Axon tasers ordered last year were insufficient for penetrating through parkas and winter clothing. NPD signed a five-year lease with Axon for tasers in 2019, but the upgrade requires approval by the Council.

This prompted additional conversation about police equipment and preparedness, particularly on bulletproof vests and protection gear for officers. As City Manager Glenn Steckman explained in his report, police have recently responded to some “serious”, violent calls.

“One of our officers walked in where there were loaded guns, they found two loaded guns. The person was on probation for other felonies. There was ammunition there that did not go to those particular guns that were found and it could have been a very, very bad situation. Then obviously you all know the other situation that was communicated to you where a young woman was killed. Later that morning when the police chief and one of our officers responded, the perpetrator attacked them.”

Heintzelman told KNOM the department has bullet-resistant vests that are nearing expiration. Current grants the department has applied for may help NPD acquire that type of equipment.

Manager Steckman also informed the Council that they’ve received a steady stream of applicants for the vacant NPD Chief of Police position. He encourages the Public Safety Advisory Commission to meet soon and review those resumes.

In other public safety news, the Council passed their state and federal legislative priorities with domestic violence, sexual assault, and public safety being on top of both those lists. The state priorities included capital project funding for Nome Schools and a covered multi-purpose recreational structure for the city. Councilmember Jerald Brown explains how legislators, like Senator Donny Olson and Representative Neal Foster, can use those priorities when the state has available funds. 

“It allows Donny and Neal to take a look and say, ‘Well, it looks like we can allocate around $700,000 to Nome. Let’s see what in their priorities around that amount.’ … And maybe we get something.”

Also, during their meeting, councilmembers learned that they and the rest of Nome will soon be paying more for garbage disposal. Nome’s garbage is not collected by the municipality but rather a private company, Alaska Waste – Nome, LLC. The company notified the City of their proposed rate increases of 13.7 % which will begin with an interim 7% increase on February 28th.

Along with that change, residents should expect to pay $3.66 for extra trash bags that do not fit in their trash cans.

As for utilities, Nome Joint Utility System Assistant Manager Ken Morton says they are looking into civilian concerns regarding polyfluoralkyl substances, or PFAS, in city water.  

“We thought it was a really low probability but it’s a question that some people worry about, so we had the water system tested. There is no evidence of PFAS compounds in our Moonlight Springs water supply.”

Separate from the main agenda items, Manager Steckman shared that the City is contracting on a temporary basis with Emily Stotts for some of the Animal Control Officer duties, which brought up another animal control concern – foxes. City Clerk Bryant Hammond explains:

“Trapping is not expressly forbidden within the city. There are some rules. You have to fill out a permit with the City Clerk’s office like just about everything else. But you can trap inside Nome.”

The regular meeting was preceded by a two-hour long work session where the Council heard non-profits advocate for a portion of the NSEDC Community Benefits Share. They will continue their discussion on how to allocate those funds at a later date.

The next Nome Common Council meeting is scheduled for January 27th and they expect to read a budget amendment regarding funding needs for the city and NPD.

Image at top: The Nome Common Council during a December meeting in 2019. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM.