The Soldotna City Council on Wednesday night voted to move forward with plans to build a city cemetery. It's a decision that's been a long time coming.
However, we have questions about how the council reached its decision, and the public deserves an explanation.
The council did not select, nor has it officially considered, a city-owned parcel off West Redoubt Avenue that had been recommended by a task force charged with finding a suitable site. The council also ignored the city planning and zoning board's agreement with the task force recommendation.
Instead, the council voted to locate a cemetery on a parcel adjacent to Soldotna Municipal Airport.
The motion to consider the airport property was not posted ahead of time on the council agenda. It was not published or advertised before the Jan. 9 council meeting at which it was made.
The public was not notified that the council would be considering what has become a heated topic in Soldotna over the past two years, well, actually, much longer than that.
"I wanted to bring the airport property to a public hearing to see if there is a public outcry. I have a hunch there won't be," Soldotna City Councilman Scott McLane told the Clarion after making the motion to select the airport property as the site for a cemetery.
McLane's hunch has turned out to be wrong as evidenced by the overflow crowd at Wednesday's city council meeting.
Still, the council approved the resolution.
Something is wrong with the way this is happening.
The final choice of a cemetery site is important, but the bigger issue is the manner in which this process is moving forward. True, as Councilman Peter Micciche said, not everybody is going to be happy with any decision the council makes. But McLane's motion was made through the back door of the public process, and for the council to have approved it so quickly gives the appearance of back-room dealing.
The rationale for any action taken by a government body needs to be outlined in an open and public forum. We don't have to like a decision, but we need to understand why it is made.
Residents in a nearby neighborhood do not want a cemetery in their back yard, and while they may speak their mind, it's up to all of the citizens to make that call, not just a few.
That the Soldotna City Council would ram this issue through the public process is a slap in the face to the rest of our community.
We commend the council for making a decision and we know you can't please everyone, but we hope the citizens of Soldotna question the process and make sure it is in the best interest of the community, not the council.
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