The Kenai skateboard park will soon move to its new home by the softball fields behind Little Ski-Mo, although how long it stays there may depend on how well the park's users treat the facility.
The Kenai City Council approved spending the money to pave the new park area and relocate the skateboard equipment in its meeting last week, but not without voicing some concerns over liability issues, the cost of paving the new park location and vandalism.
"I'm very torn at this point in time over the skateboard park," said Kenai Mayor John Williams.
The park has been moved back and forth between the Multipur-pose Facility and its current home at the Kenai Recreation Center. On May 7, the council approved the new location by the softball fields, but in Wednesday's meeting, some council members seemed to be having second thoughts.
Liability issues the city faces with the skateboard park was one concern voiced. There have been two serious injuries and countless turned ankles and minor bumps and bruises in the park's existence. However, signs at the park make it clear that skaters and bikers use the facility at their own risk. The city encourages users to wear helmets and protective gear, but the park is unattended so that isn't an enforced rule.
Williams said he is worried about what could happen with the park moving to a secluded area with no phones or adults immediately present.
"It's a long way away from communications. ... If we put it in there are going to be injuries, no doubt about it," he said.
Council member Pat Porter pointed out that many kids have cell phones now, and that Little Ski-Mo is across the street and has a phone. She supported moving the park to the new location.
"We at least need to give it a chance," she said. "The kids use that thing, they really do."
Council member Jim Bookey said the liability issue wouldn't change whether the park was at the rec center, by the softball fields or anywhere else.
The cost of the paving was prohibitive to council member Linda Swarner. She voted against the paving in Wednesday's meeting and on May 7. The paving bid the council voted on was $23,220 from Alaska Roadbuilders Inc. The money for the paving comes out of a special fund the city has that is designated specifically for recreation projects. Swarner said she would rather see that money go to other projects, rather than use so much on the skateboard park.
Another point of discussion was the possibility that vandalism at the skateboard park and nearby cemetery may increase by moving the park, since it will be in a more secluded area.
The Soldotna skateboard park recently had an incident of vandalism where a portable restroom was burned down.
Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates said the park will be fenced in and can be closed down if problems occur.
After discussing these concerns, the council voted to give the park a chance, but reserved the option of readdressing the matter at a later date. Council members Bookey, Porter, Joe Moore, John "Ozzie" Osborn and Amy Jackman voted for paving the new skateboard park area, while Swarner and Williams voted against it.
"I'm not ready to bail on the park," Moore said. "I agree it is a lot of money. ... I support the resolution with the caveat if there's problems, or injuries, that this council could close the door."
The paving should be completed and the equipment ready to move within the next two weeks.
In other action Wednesday, the council:
n Approved giving themselves a pay cut. The council voted unanimously to reduce council members' monthly salaries from $500 a month to $400 a month and the mayor's monthly salary from $1,000 a month to $900. The pay cut was in response to budget constraints that have arisen over the year.
"The council has decided to do this primarily because we know the budget is in deep trouble and needs some help," Williams said.
"It's a sign of the times," Bookey added.
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