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Kenai spends for services: Council votes to fund cemetery

Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011

Kenai's City Council voted to spend money on a park, the cemetery and local students this week.

On Wednesday night, the council unanimously voted to use money designated for an alternative energy project to add about $30,000 each to the playground expansion and cemetery projects.

City Manager Rick Koch said the cemetery work needed to be done.

"We have some issues in the cemetery that need to be addressed as soon as the snow melts," he said. That will mainly involve marking plots that are sold but not yet in use, and marking plots that are up for sale.

Koch said the playground funding won't get equipment on the ground this summer, but will go towards design and could mean that the park is ready for action sooner in 2012 than it would have been otherwise.

Council member Bob Molloy questioned the original proposal, which proposed spending $90,000 on three projects. He said the city should be cautious about spending everything when fuel prices were rising, and noted that in the past, higher gas prices have affected the city's bottom line.

"Just because we have the money doesn't mean we have to spend it," he said.

Koch said that rising costs would impact this budget, but not as much as in the past because it's over a shorter period of the budget.

Councilman Joe Moore said he was glad the city had studied the alternative energy project before moving forward, and he thought this was a better use of the money.

"In hindsight, I'm thankful that we have this $90,000 available to do this," he said.

The council sent the unspent $30,000 back to the general fund after deciding not to spend it on another cemetery-related project, the columbarium.

Funding for the Skyview Mock Trial team, which is representing the state of Alaska at nationals in Arizona later this spring, was a more contentious issue.

Moore said that in his early years on the council, the body got overwhelmed by requests for money from community groups and made a gentleman's agreement not to make donations outside of what was in the budget. Since the council first discussed this donation at its meeting two weeks ago, he had gotten calls from various other groups wondering if they too could get funding, he said.

But others on the council wanted to make what Molloy called a "nominal donation" of $225.

"I'm attracted to supporting it because these are members of our community," said council member Ryan Marquis said.

Ultimately, the council voted 4-2 in favor of making the donation, with Moore and council member Brian Gabriel opposing the motion and councilman Mike Boyle absent. Gabriel said he was concerned about opening the door to future requests if he voted for the donation.

Student representative Hannah Coffman, from Kenai Central High School, also voted to support the Skyview students.

The team has raised about $12,000 of their $15,000 minimum budget, and said they had received money from the U.S. District Court, but not any other local governments.

Marquis told the students present they could use Kenai's donation as leverage.

"Feel free to let Soldotna know," he said.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.



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