Burial issue lives

Money would create veterans section if city builds cemetery

Posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Talks about building a cemetery in Soldotna have quieted considerably in the past five months, but the desire to have a final resting place for its dead is very much alive.

“I’m promoting the idea: if Soldotna builds a cemetery, we will expand the size to include a veterans’ section,” Sen. Tom Wagoner said Monday.

Mike Carey, who says he is the Kenai Peninsula chairman of the Veterans Party of Alaska, is soliciting comments from all around the peninsula from people — especially veterans — to keep the heat on elected officials to develop a place in Soldotna to bury military veterans.

“I think this is a very reasonable thing and it’s the least we can do for our veterans,” Wagoner said.

The city is looking at parcels the city owns that were not considered earlier for a city cemetery, according to City Manager Tom Boedeker.

Last year, the city came close to working out a deal with the Kenai Peninsula Borough to swap a piece of borough-owned land on West Redoubt Avenue in Soldotna for possible development as a cemetery.

Talks on the land muddied, however, over suggested cemetery management issues. The city had said it would allow people from throughout the borough to bury their dead in a Soldotna cemetery if the land were donated to the city, and the city would maintain the cemetery at its expense.

The borough reportedly wanted and asked for other assurances that would result in maintaining the cemetery into perpetuity, and the city pulled out of the negotiations.

“The whole thing on the land swap got more and more complicated,” Boedeker said Monday.

“Right now we’re back to looking at other pieces of city-owned property,” he said.

Initially a cemetery task force formed by Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey identified a 10-acre piece of borough land on Redoubt as the most desirable, and the city considered swapping a piece of city land at Arc Lake for the Redoubt parcel.

The Arc Lake land, however, was found to have legal encumbrances forbidding the city from using it for anything other than recreational use.

The city then sought to have the borough donate the Redoubt Avenue land.

While that was being debated at the borough assembly level, talks with the borough administration faltered and the city withdrew its request.

The cemetery task force expressed its disappointment, but the mayor asked members to trust the city.

In the meantime, the mayor’s brother, Mike Carey, spearheaded a lobbying

effort in Juneau and received word last month that Rep. Kurt Olson was instrumental

in getting the item on the state budget, $40,000 had been set aside

for a veterans memorial in Soldotna.

Wagoner said the money could be used for a memorial tribute to veterans or for helping to develop a veterans section in a future Soldotna city cemetery.

“Tom Wagoner said absolutely we’re going to get more money for a veterans’ cemetery,” Mike Carey said Monday.

“What we’re doing now, we’re waiting for Tom (Wagoner),” he said.

Mike Carey said he is receiving a large number of letters and phone calls from people on the Kenai Peninsula who want a veterans’ cemetery in Soldotna.

“If (veterans) want to be buried in an actual veterans’ cemetery, there is an opportunity at Fort (Richardson), but I think a lot would prefer to be down here,” Wagoner said.

Fort Richardson in Anchorage has a veterans’ cemetery on post.

A new state veterans’ cemetery also is being built in Fairbanks.

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