The Nome Common Council had good news for the local school system Monday night an extra $165,000 to cover COVID-19 costs.

During Monday’s regular meeting, the Nome Common Council learned that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students enrolled in the Nome’s homeschooling program is nearly four times higher than usual.

This year 60 students are enrolled in the EXTENSIONS program and in normal years that number is around 15, reports Superintendent Jamie Burgess. The Nome school district still needs to give a stipend for each of those students based on state law.

Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman said funds for the school can be taken from the municipality’s pot of CARES Act funding.

“We’re having a harder time distributing the money than we had anticipated. But I think keeping the schools open and safe allows people to get back to work.”

A significant portion of that funding will pay for personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies at the school.

Superintendent Jamie Burgess of Nome Public Schools reports to the City Council on COVID-19 needs. Photo: Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM.

Monday night the council continued to hear health and safety concerns from residents living near Front Street. Sue Greenly detailed five recent reports she made to the Nome Police regarding public fornication, indecency, property damage in the form of slashed car tires, and continuous noise complaints.

“This is a growing and ongoing concern in our neighborhood and in this town. Too many resources are being spent on what is negatively impacting us. My 2-mill property rate increase gives me a right to call the police and suggest that the city police and community patrol officers do just that: patrol.”

This prompted Councilmember Jennifer Reader to ask how many patrol officers are out on a shift. Reader said the council has made their recent budgeting decisions for the police department based on the understanding that patrols would include two officers.

“That was our incentive to fully fund our police department and that’s what our council chose to do; so it doesn’t sound like our choices are working the way we were hoping.”

Nome’s Deputy Police Chief Robert Pruckner told the council that oftentimes, only one patrol officer is on duty at a time. Currently, the department has a vacancy for a sergeant and patrol officer. The council recalled a report from former Police Chief Robert Estes that described a full-staff of ten officers would allow for pairs to patrol.

Pruckner also updated the council on the search for Florence Okpealuk and shared that the FBI has been an active partner in the search since early September. FBI agents were still on the ground in Nome through Tuesday. 

In other news, the council three agenda resolutions in addition to the school funding request. One of those included one of the shortest agenda items in recent memory which reads:

“Be it resolved that the Nome Common Council expresses the City of Nome’s unwavering support of the running of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race finishing in Nome.”

– quoted from the final resolution itself

A chain of emails from a PETA spokesperson to city employees prompted the resolution. Melanie Johnson, the Assistant Manager of PETA’s Animals in Entertainment Campaign, wrote to Interim Mayor John Handeland insisting that Nome “celebrate” the Iditarod without using live dogs.

Other agenda items included the approval of a $3.8 million note for the purchase of diesel for Nome Joint Utilities System. Mayor and NJUS Manager John Handeland shared that because of a decrease in fuel prices, that note is down from $5-million the year before.

The council also passed a resolution approving the award of a contract for furnished and crushed aggregate road surface course to be delivered to the Board of Trade, Inc.

The next Nome City Council meeting is scheduled for October 12th.

Image at Top: Nome City Council during their regular meeting in August, 2020 (Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM)