Cemetery location shows promise

Posted: Friday, June 26, 2009

Soldotna leaders received some good news and some bad news Wednesday night regarding the proposed city cemetery site on Knight Drive on the north edge of town.

City Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake told the Soldotna City Council that six holes were excavated on several parcels of land the city is hoping to purchase for the new cemetery and "it looks very positive."

Bonebrake said a good mix of desirable sand was found in at least three of the holes and the area has a suitable layer of topsoil for future landscaping of the cemetery.

The bad news, announced by City Manager Larry Semmens, is that the earliest any local appraiser would be available to put a price on the land is August. He said the city administration is continuing to work toward having the land appraised earlier.

Mayor Peter Micciche has said earlier, the city would have a cemetery open before the end of this year.

Last month, the council voted by the slimmest of margins to purchase the Knight Drive parcels rather than build a cemetery on two sites already owned by the city. The council voted to a 3-3 tie, which was broken by Micciche's affirmative vote.

The approved site consists of 17 acres between Knight Drive and West Marydale Avenue near Sohi Lane.

City Clerk Teresa Fahning told the council their July 8 meeting agenda will include the appointment and seating of a council member to replace Shane Horan who resigned June 10.

The lone applicant for the seat -- Alaska State Trooper Eugene Fowler -- is away for trooper training and was not able to be appointed and seated Wednesday. Once appointed, Fowler will serve until the October municipal election when someone will be elected to serve the remainder of Horan's term, which ends in 2011.

Before unanimously agreeing to ask voters whether Soldotna elected and appointed officials should be exempt from state financial disclosure statutes and establishing local rules, the council was told that the city attorney is reviewing a draft of a city financial disclosure reporting form and is preparing an ordinance that would establish local provisions for disclosure.

The reporting form and the draft ordinance will be provided to council members along with their July 8 city council meeting agenda packet, according to Fahning, and the Committee of the Whole is slated to discuss the ordinance at 5:30 p.m. July 22.

The mayor and council have described revised financial disclosure requirements as "intrusive and unreasonable," and said they see them as deterrents to having people step forward to serve the city as elected and appointed officials.

Alaska municipalities are entitled to seek exemption from the rules as long as they have the support of local voters. Kenai voters approved such an exemption last year.

In other business, the council awarded a $228,314 contract to Alaska Public Entities Insurance Pool to provide property, liability and workers compensation insurance to the city.

The city rejected a $443,890 bid from Alaska Municipal League Joint Insurance Association, the only other bidder, and the organization the city has used for the past 20 years.

The city manager described the $205,000 difference as "compelling and somewhat shocking."

"It's a tremendous savings and one that probably won't be duplicated," Semmens said.

The executive director of the AMLJIA, Kevin Smith, said he too found the difference in price "shocking."

"It made me go back and look at my math," Smith said. "There was no way we could get to that number.

"I just want to say thank you for 20 years of support," he said.

Micciche said, "Loyalty has a price tag and I feel this has gone beyond the price tag."

The council approved the change unanimously.

The council also awarded a $113,000 sole source contract to Severn Trent Water Purification Inc. for an on-site chlorine generator for the city's water well C.

The public works director told the council funds for the project are coming from existing Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development grants.

During the mayor's report section of the council meeting, Micciche announced that the city is seeking a new member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Applicants can contact city hall at 117 North Birch Street.

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

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