EMERGENCY SERVICES— Paramedic Stephanie Nielson addressed the Nome Common Council with a stark message of burn-out in Nome’s volunteer ambulance emergency responders.

Council hears frustration from Emergency Services provider

By Diana Haecker
In a regular Nome Common Council meeting on Monday, the Council heard in citizen’s comments an urgent plea to change things at the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department as volunteers are burned out by so-called “power users” of the emergency services. Paramedic Stephanie Nielson told the Council she can talk freely, now that she’s no longer with the NVAD as she’s headed out of town to go back to school. In a nutshell, she told the council that the volunteer force is being burned out by a small group of users who abuse the system. She said volunteers don’t even respond anymore for certain calls coming from a certain area. “We don’t have people running there anymore because we are burned out,” she said. “We are tired of being called out for someone who is cold, lonely or just wants a turkey sandwich.”
She was worried that serious calls won’t be responded to because of those who relentlessly abuse the service. “My concern is that someone is going to die because your EMS folks are burned out,” she said.
What’s the solution? asked councilman Scot Henderson.
A paid crew, Nielson answered. “When you call, it’s their job to come and get you,” she said. She said the abuse has contributed to a “profound reluctance to have the departments [NVAD and Nome Volunteer Fire Department] combined.” A combined emergency department, she said, would give the City better leverage to obtain grants. City Manager Glenn Steckman clarified that those “power users” of the ambulance are three individuals, who are housed and are using the ambulance service for everything but emergencies. “They can be endangering people in the community because this gets into a boy-who-cries-wolf scenario,” Steckman said. He said one of those users has called for emergency services 60 times in a month.
The Council tasked Steckman to look into the situation and report back to the Council before a work session is dedicated to the issue.
In other business, the Council passed an ordinance through first reading that would waive the permit fees for building, remodel, mechanical or electrical permits for building projects valued under $500,000. The intent, Jerald Brown, sponsor of the measure, said was to encourage improvements by waiving fees for small businesses and private persons who plan building and remodeling projects. City Manager Steckman said that the city just bought software that streamlines building permits and their administration, and clarified that if the measure passes, people still need to file for a permit with the city, just certain fees would be waived.
The measure passed through first reading, with second reading and public comment scheduled for the next regular Council meeting. Councilmember Scot Henderson commented he intends to propose an amendment which would expand the effective date beyond the December 2025 timeframe written in the ordinance.
The Council passed a resolution to pay Legislative Consultants LLC a fee of $85,000 for state lobbying services “for and at the request of the City of Nome in furtherance of the City’s legislative and administrative priorities.”
The Council postponed passage of a resolution to approve the contract between the Nome Chamber of Commerce and the City to operate the Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau. With only Brown, who presided over the meeting, Mark Johnson, Scot Henderson and Adam Martinson being present, there was a lack of quorum to vote on the issue as Johnson and Henderson are associated with the Nome Chamber of Commerce.
The Council unanimously passed a resolution to support Nome Community Center’s application for a community development block grant as a co-applicant.
The Council then went into executive session to discuss a personnel issue that may have adverse impacts on the City of Nome finances. No action was taken after the executive session.

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112


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