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Molly Kenick Joins City Council, Group Discusses Coronavirus and Plastic Bags

Last night, the Nome City Council swore in a new member, one who is a good bit younger than most of the Council.

During Monday’s meeting, Nome City Clerk Bryant Hammond did a roll call for the Council’s newest member: Youth Representative Molly Kenick. Kenick is a junior at Nome-Beltz High School who was appointed by Principal Jay Thomas for her interest in school and city government. The Youth Representative is a non-voting member of the Council but is meant to be a voice in the Council for Nome residents who are too young to vote.

Through an extra-curricular school group, the Nome City’s Youth Advisory Committee, Kenick hopes to bring youth concerns to the Council.

“We have voices too. We get together around the times of meetings and then we just go over ideas and then we try to make some good compromises and things like that. Then we’re going to start presenting them to the City Council.”

The Council had a short packet but one that contained some notable pieces of communication: a notice of liquor license renewal for Milano’s Pizzeria and a copy of the permit application for Norton Sound Health Corporation to expand its parking lot at the hospital. The packet includes NSHC’s application to the State Department of Environmental Conservation, as their project could impact navigable waters.

In his City Manager’s report, Glenn Steckman shared that Nome Public Schools was successful in acquiring a grant from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

“I’m pleased to announce that the school district was able to secure the $500,000 grant to plan for the construction of housing, for not only teachers, but for the police officers.”

That new teacher housing would be built on West 3rd Avenue, where the local ice rink now stands. Steckman says he is consulting with the ice rink organizers about the future of the facility. Constructing a new ice rink is one of Nome’s designated capital projects.

The City Manager also reported on city preparations for coronavirus. He says that all police officers have been outfitted with masks and all first responders have been briefed on precautions for anyone who is sick. All private flights into Nome from China are also reportedly stopped, according to Steckman. But Councilmember Doug Johnson wondered if the City could do anything to make the public more proactive.

[There could be a] Public information campaign on handwashing: how to treat your neighbor, take care of yourself and your family, maybe push that into the school especially. I’m sure CDC has some in place. You’ve just got to start downloading it and disseminating it.”

Also during Monday night’s meeting, citizens began to weigh in about the plastic bag ban during citizen’s comments. Keith Reddaway of Nome wants the Council to keep any proposed ban simple and says he opposes the idea of taxing plastic bags.

“Don’t try to do an incremental phase. Either ban it or don’t. Don’t make a retailer take time out of his day to count nickels and bags. That’s a huge waste of time for everybody that does this.”

Another citizen, Roxanne Thurman, wondered why the Council meetings are no longer broadcast on cable tv for elders and those who are housebound. Clerk Hammond explained that that decision was made by GCI and not the City. But most members of the Council seemed to agree that broadcasting meetings has value and began to discuss options for streaming online or getting a cable broadcast again. Mayor Richard Beneville said he would like to write a letter to GCI requesting the service be reinstated.

Finally, Manager Steckman announced that the Public Safety Advisory Commission has selected three candidates for Police Chief: Jennifer Shockley, formerly of the Unalaska Department of Public Safety; Joel Fitzgerald, formerly Chief of Police for Forth Worth, Texas; and current Interim NPD Chief Mike Heintzelman. The current plan is to have those residents come to Nome for an in-person public interview after the Iditarod sled dog race.

The next Nome City Council meeting is scheduled for March 9th.

Image at top: Molly Kenick being sworn in as youth representative for Nome City Council. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020).

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