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Local Emergency Declared, City Manager Has More Power To Address COVID-19

Nome’s City Manager Glenn Steckman has been given the authority to take emergency actions in order to reduce the local impact of COVID-19 within the City of Nome.

Following a special meeting of the City Council last night, Steckman can now do a number of things like ration fuel and food, limit restaurants and bars to dine-out only, and even control the flow people going in and out of Nome.

Councilmember Jerald Brown wanted to make it clear that none of these measures will automatically be taken, only that they are now options on the table for the City Manager.

Brown: We’re not saying that immediately today, all of these things are happening correct? What we’re saying is we are giving the City Manager the authority as it becomes necessary to perform these functions. Steckman: Yes sir.  Brown: Although some of them I believe would go into effect immediately… Steckman: We’d have to give proper notice to the restaurants and bars.”

Two amendments came from Councilmember Brown, one of which would put further restrictions in place to limit nonessential services and businesses. This one garnered some concern from a few members in attendance at the unique gathering in Old St. Joe’s, such as local business owner Pat Johanson.

“I agree with preventative measures and I agree with what we’re doing. But I just caution, as I said earlier, about the heavy-handed approach. And the over encompassing, broad range of ‘well, we’re just going to grab it all and worry about it later.’ Just like anything else, I think small steps.”

Three of six councilmembers attended the special meeting in person Tuesday night, while the other three called in. Photo from Davis Hovey, KNOM (2020).

Councilmember Jennifer Reader cast the only vote against this amendment, while the other five approved it.

Brown’s second amendment sought to extend the duration of the ordinance, allowing the City Manager to maintain his emergency authorities until May 15th. After some back and forth, Councilmember Megan Topkok explained why she supported the extension whole-heartedly.

“I’ve heard that this (coronavirus pandemic) is going to peak in the next month, between now and June, so we should just go ahead and extend it out the full 60 days if we can. It doesn’t mean that the City Manager won’t exercise it if he doesn’t need to but I think it’s worth vesting that power to him right now, while we are all meeting.”

Eventually all six councilmembers voted in favor of this second amendment and did the same for the final revised ordinance. Jennifer Reader, Doug Johnson, and Meghan Topkok were present telephonically, while Adam Martinson, Mark Johnson, and Jerald Brown were present in person at Old St. Joe’s.

Special-Meeting-Ordinance-Declaring-Local-Emergency-03.18.2020

With the declaration of a local emergency last night, the Nome City Council has authorized Glen Steckman to take actions mentioned previously, as necessary, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus.

Before adjourning the special meeting, City Manager Steckman said it was his intention to give notice for Nome’s bars and restaurants to close their doors as soon as today.

By 5pm this evening there was no such public notice from the City of Nome, however Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a statewide mandate to the same effect, which begins tonight. All bars, restaurants, and establishments selling food have been ordered by the Governor to shut down their public dine-in service until April 1st.

To hear full audio from Tuesday night’s special meeting at Old St. Joe’s, click below:

Image at top: Three of six councilmembers attended the special meeting in person Tuesday night, while the other three called in. Photo from Davis Hovey, KNOM (2020).

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