During a sparsely attended Nome City Council session, the council opted not to spend any money in their first regular meeting of 2021.
The City has received $200,000 from Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation Community Benefits Share. In the past, Nome has typically given that NSEDC money to community groups and non-profits.
But this year, City Manager Glenn Steckman said Nome has put off certain maintenance projects for too long. He recommended upgrading the 45-year-old heating and ventilation systems in City Hall.
“A lot of money has been directed back out to the community, which I fully support, but we also need to take care of some of the needs in our own house.”– City Manager Glenn Steckman
Steckman said those upgrades were recently estimated at $500,000.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has routinely recommended properly functioning ventilation systems as critical for fighting the spread of COVID-19.
Councilmember Mark Johnson questioned if those funds could go towards other capital projects, like upgrades to the Nome Swimming Pool. While that’s possible, the City Manager said those projects might be easier to fund with grant monies and community partnerships, whereas city maintenance is harder to pay for through outside opportunities.
“You know, improvement to a city hall, they tend to look at that as something that should be maintained no matter what by the local government.”– Councilmember Mark Johnson
The council postponed voting on the $200,000 and also agreed to host a work session to discuss the remaining federal CARES Act funding. Nome has just under a quarter of a million dollars that still needs to be spent. Some of that money will likely go to locals whose Phase 6 stimulus checks are still being processed.
Interim Finance Director Nikki Crowe shared a brief presentation with the council on the city’s budget. Right now, Crowe says it looks like the city is taking in a lot of revenue, but that number is inflated by the CARES Act funding being used to pay for salaries in the public safety department. However, revenue is still down significantly in areas like local hotel tax.
Lastly, Port Director Joy Baker announced that the Nome Deep Draft Port expansion was authorized by President Donald Trump and Congress at the end of 2020. Now the city can find additional funding partners and the project will enter its two-year design phase.
Unfortunately, Baker says the bids for the Inner Harbor Launch Repair project came back higher than the available funds.
“We’ve been working with the funding agency, Economic Development Administration, as well as the design engineers. I think we’ve come up with a modified approach that’s going to let us request some additional funding, as well as reduce a couple of the more costly items of the project without taking away any of the quality of the concrete or the ramp.”– Port Director Joy Baker
That ramp in Nome’s inner harbor is used for larger fishing and cargo vessels to offload their product.
The next regular Nome Common Council meeting is scheduled for January 25th.
Image at Top: The Nome City Council meets in December 2020. Photo: Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM.