Council postpones vote on public intoxication law
The Nome Common Council decided delay for more information would be the better part of valor Monday in postponing a measure to make being drunk in public streets against the law.
The ordinance up for first reading would prohibit being under the influence of alcohol, inhalant or controlled substance on property for which an easement has been granted for public travel and transportation by motor vehicle.
Barb Amarok and Jenny Mills, taking the public comment podium, both expressed doubt that arrests or fines for public drunkenness would stop public intoxication.
Nome’s 2020 comprehensive plan mentions promotion of responsible consumption, Amarok said, and states three priorities—partnering with Norton Sound Health Corporation, Nome Emergency Shelter Team and continued funding of Community Service Officers. The issue needs more study; she could not provide a solution, Amarok confessed.
The proposed ordinance didn’t seem to promise a solution to people downtown drunk, Mills observed. The people drinking, often repeat offenders, did not have money to pay fines and citations and other interactions to apply the ordinance would tax an already strained law enforcement program. Mills, an attorney not currently practicing, suggested the Council consult the City’s attorney as the ordinance seemed to raise significant due process issues.
City Manager Tom Moran offered clarification: first, the ordinance on the table had no fines attached, and additionally, had been reviewed by the City’s attorney several times.
Voting at Monday’s meeting was moving too fast, Councilman Stan Andersen said.
“This is way too quick. We have to beat it some more,” he said. Or, he had another idea. “Just vote it down and get rid of it.”
The Council voted 4-2 to postpone voting on the ordinance prohibiting public intoxication in public rights-of-way. Councilmen Jerald Brown and Tom Sparks cast the “no” votes.
Next, the Council took up an ordinance to amend the 2008 Title 18 Zone law to prohibit storing junk motor vehicles in any zoning district except the Industrial District. A vote to introduce the new law split down the middle 3 to 3. Mayor Richard Beneville voted yes to break the tie and move the ordinance to second reading and final passage at the next regular Council meeting Aug. 28. The new law would mean no junk vehicle storage in the following districts: Residential, Commercial, Resource Development, or Open Space and Recreational.
The Council followed up with another tweak to the zoning law by introducing an ordinance to change certain land uses on the zone map.
In adopting the 2008 Zone Law, the City recognized a need to promote public health and safety, protect property values, create uniform regulations, reduce nuisances and to conserve land for appropriate uses. The law can be amended only for specific reasons contained in the law, as correcting manifest errors in zoning for a specific property or based on changing conditions, such as extending a district, or to provide for a community-related use to encourage development or redevelopment of a changing area.
The ordinance changes an area on West First Avenue from Bering to Steadman streets from Residential District to General Use District; Lots 686 and 687 from Industrial District to Commercial District; Lots 124, 123, 89 and 90 from Residential District to General Use District, and an area around the old hospital from General Use District to Commercial and Residential districts.
These changes posed no contention or controversy, Moran told the Council. The Nome Planning Commission had approved the idea at a meeting on July 11; hearings had been held, and land owners within and adjacent to the districts had been notified per City law and regulation.
The Council approved the changes 4 to 2, with “no” votes coming from Councilman Louis Green Sr., who wanted more information and Councilman Tom Sparks whose property was involved. Sparks wasn’t certain he totally understood the moves, he said.
The Council approved the purchase of a tire shredder for the City’s public works department. Unlimited Resources Corp. won the bid to supply the machine for the fixed price of $76,600 plus around $9,000 for freight. Craig Taylor Equipment offered to supply a shredder for $753,600.Totem Inc. bid $146,000.
“We’re getting more and more vehicles and more and more tires,” Public Works Director Joe Horton told the Council. The Council approved by 4 to 2, with Councilmen Mark Johnson and Green issuing “no” votes.
The tire shredder will dispose of tires more easily than taking up large volumes of space by burying them whole in the City’s landfill, according to Horton.
In other business, the Council received a legislative session overview from the City’s lobbyist, Wendy Chamberlain. Some highlights— Nome Youth Facility will remain open; a reduction of $48,300 in the City’s Community Revenue Sharing money did not materialize and a Permanent Fund Dividend for qualifying Alaskans is in the budget for $1,100. Distribution will begin Oct. 6.
In a final item on the agenda, the Council recessed into executive session to discuss findings from a recent sales tax audit and to discuss a potential contract extension with Moran.
A drive-by observer saw Council members mosey out of that session just before 11 p.m.