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Howell: 'Do What’s Right First, And Worry About The Money Later'

Bill Howell on his last day as Acting City Manger in Bethel, Alaska on April 3, 2020.
Katie Basile

The City of Bethel and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation are working together to create additional space in town to house and quarantine people stuck in Bethel during the pandemic. 

On April 3, his last day as Acting City Manager, Bill Howell told KYUK that many people are now in the hub community because their home villages have closed down travel to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“We have a lot of folks who get stuck in Bethel after they’ve traveled out of state, or even in state,” Bill Howell says. “They get stuck in Bethel because the villages have the ability to enforce even stricter guidelines than what are already in place.” 

Many people may also be in Bethel waiting for test results to come back, or may need to comply with state mandates and quarantine themselves for two weeks. 

Howell says that the city is looking at using local hotels and public buildings for shelters, but the logistics are complicated and expensive. They include things like providing food for people being sheltered. Howell says that he is confident that the city will get reimbursed for expenses.

“I think there’s a very strong possibility that we will be able to get reimbursed for that. Regardless, though, we’re going to do what’s right first, and worry about the money later.”

The Lower Kuskokwim School District and the health corporation are already setting up three dorms at Yuut Elitnaurviat, the Bethel Regional High School gym, the Gladys Jung Elementary School gym, and one wing of classrooms in Gladys Jung.

Howell will be back to running Bethel's fire department on April 6. On his last day as Acting City Manager, he talked about his experience leading the city’s management team during the past year.

“Being able to be in this role and to be a member of this team is going to cause me to look back and reminisce a lot. It’s been a great experience,” he said.