Cemetery plan moves forward

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2008

The Soldotna city manager made it clear to the city council on Wednesday that he is moving forward with several activities aimed at building a city cemetery near the Soldotna Municipal Airport.

No council members objected.

At the same time, a number of Soldotna citizens are circulating a petition to ask city voters if they prefer city-owned property at the Kenai River end of Redoubt Avenue for the cemetery as recommended last year by the Soldotna Memorial Park Task Force.

Before the initiative makes it to the October ballot if approved City Manager Tom Boedeker said he could have additional soil sampling done at the airport site, complete a layout design with cemetery plots platted, create road plans and receive plan approvals as required.

"All these processes will be complete prior to October," Boedeker said.

When asked on Thursday if he is fast-tracking the preliminary work because the ballot initiative petition has been filed, Boedeker said, "No. This is the schedule we talked about. I just wanted to make it clear to the council that this is what I'm going to do."

Referred to as "the airport property," the proposed site is between eight and 10 acres of a larger tract of city-owned land across Funny River Road from the east end of the airport runway.

Some preliminary soil testing has been done and a portion of land north of a gravel road built by Troy Hodges appears to be suitable for cemetery graves, according to Boedeker.

Last year, the cemetery task force recommended the Redoubt Avenue property as its number one choice for a cemetery.

The city council instead selected the task force's third choice the airport property.

After receiving much opposition to the Redoubt Avenue site from residents of the neighboring Mooring by the River Subdivision, the city council stopped considering the task force's number-one choice and opted for the airport property.

At the request of the city, Donald Warden, director of the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, visited several potential Soldotna sites earlier this month and provided a comprehensive Soldotna Memorial Park Cemetery site analysis.

In his report, Warden said the airport site is not acceptable as a city cemetery.

Three of six test graves he had dug there were acceptable in terms of soil, but two were unacceptable one because the soil is mostly clay with some sand and the area around the other had been contaminated.

Warden preferred the Redoubt Avenue site.

"If you are truly striving for a community cemetery, this is the best location I've seen in Soldotna," his report stated. "The 10 acres also offers a great opportunity for years of cemetery expansion."

At Wednesday's meeting, Jim Fassler, one of the members of the now de-commissioned cemetery task force, read from Warden's report and said, "I'd like to make sure Don Warden's report is known to everyone.

"Site one (the airport property) is unacceptable. Secondary site three (the Redoubt property) was determined to be the best site for (the) city cemetery," Fassler said.

Dr. Jay Rohloff, a Kenai dentist who lives in the neighborhood next to the Redoubt property, said he recommends the city proceed "with what the council voted on."

"To sit and wait till the initiative comes up only delays (building a cemetery) for six months," Rohloff said.

During a number of public hearings last year about a cemetery location, Rohloff spoke out against siting it in his neighborhood saying he believes it would adversely affect property values.

Boedeker said on Thursday the ballot initiative, if passed by the Soldotna electorate, is advisory only. It does not mandate the city to place its cemetery at the Redoubt location.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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