City of Nome plans to scrap permit fees and tackle local emergency services – KNOM Radio Mission
Nome City Council on Monday discussed new measures to encourage construction and renovation in the city. A proposed new order would waive certain permit fees for any construction project valued at less than $500,000.
The council recently passed similar ordinances, but these specifically benefited newcomers. lodging construction. This last ordinance is broader; it waives fees for any construction within the city limits under $500,000. The fees the new ordinance proposes to remove are renovation, building, electrical and mechanical permit fees.
City Manager Glenn Steckman was keen to mention that whatever fees may be waived, the building permits themselves are still required.
“I think everyone needs to understand that regardless of the program, you will still need to file a permit. Because we need to know what’s going on in the community. So I know we’re hearing waiver fees. It’s totally different from still having to get a permit,” Steckman said.
The board will vote on the new ordinance at its next meeting. If passed as is, the ordinance will take effect immediately and remain in effect until December 31, 2025. However, council member Scot Henderson has proposed an amendment to extend the end date to 2027. The council will also vote on the amendments next week. .
In other matters, the council passed a resolution formally declaring its support for the Nome Community Center Community Development Block Grant application. This would help fund the HomePlate housing project.
The council also renewed the city’s contract with Legislative Consultants in Alaska, the organization that lobbies the state government on behalf of Nome.
During the public comment period, volunteer Nome paramedic Stephanie Nielson made an impassioned plea to the council to change the city’s approach to emergency services.
“Gentlemen, tonight there was an ambulance call that was silenced six times and no one came. And no one went because we’re overwhelmed, we don’t have paid service. And we as a city have allowed a very small minority of users to abuse the service and burn us out,” Nielson explained.
Nome maintains NVAD, a mostly volunteer ambulance service, and unnecessary calls have overstretched volunteers to breaking point, Nielson said. Nome needs to move to a paid service, where paramedics would be forced to respond to every call, according to Nielson. Without this obligation, she fears that overworked volunteers will let the wrong call slip through the cracks, resulting in tragedy. She shared the story of one such close call.
“I’ll tell you, I’ve got a few people – from our Front Street regulars – that I went ‘Oh, not them again. And I left [to the scene] expecting him to be what he always was. And I almost intubated one of them in the truck,” Nielson said.
Council plans to hold a work session soon to discuss possible solutions to meet the needs of the city’s emergency services.
The next regular Nome Town Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 25 at 7 p.m. As always, Nome residents are encouraged to attend and comment.