Public comment keeps vets memorial, cemetery talks alive

City council gets an earful

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2007

The fact that a city cemetery and a veterans memorial in Soldotna Creek Park were not on the city council's agenda Wednesday night did not deter foes and friends from voicing their opinions on the controversial topics.

Speaking on behalf of a handful of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans who turned out for the meeting, Herb Stettler said he believes erecting a veterans memorial in Soldotna Creek Park as the park is redesigned "will add beauty to the park," and be a welcome sight for veterans from all over the United States visiting the Kenai Peninsula during the busy fishing season.

Stettler, service officer for the Soldotna Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10046 and Kenai American Legion Post 20, said a veterans memorial with two flag poles would serve well for various memorial ceremonies the city conducts each year.

"Our veterans organizations support the sketch I submitted to the mayor," Stettler said, referring to a sketch of a proposed veterans memorial drawn a decade ago by WW II veteran Harry Barnes. Barnes died in December 2006 at age 82.

Stettler said he had gathered 200 signatures of people supporting the idea of a veterans memorial, and he offered to present the petition to the city clerk.

Jim Walters, a member of AmVets Post 4 in the Red Diamond Center, said at the last council meeting, the potential threat of vandalism to a veterans memorial was brought up as a possible reason for not having a memorial.

"I just want you to know, if the memorial is vandalized, all the area veterans organizations will be glad to pitch in for video surveillance equipment ... and support prosecuting vandals to the full extent of the law," Walters said.

Protesting the potential siting of a city cemetery in their neighborhood, Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary Turner and Kenai dentist Jay Rohloff cited their objections.

While Turner did not state the cemetery should not be built on a 10-acre parcel of city-owned land referred to as the Redoubt property, he said monitoring wells should be placed around cemeteries to guard against any potential pollution entering the water table and said the city should construct an environmentally sensitive cemetery.

Rohloff said, "Use of the West Redoubt property eliminates the intended use for the land ... to install a secondary sedimentation basin."

The property, which lies between the end of West Redoubt Avenue and Riverwatch Drive near the Kenai River, contains a storm-water sedimentation pond at the river's edge.

"If we use this property for a cemetery, where will the second sedimentation pond go?" Rohloff asked.

City Manager Tom Boedeker later said the land is not suitable for a sedimentation pond because it is too high and would require runoff water to be elevated by pumping.

Turner asked that the council not recommend the site to Planning a Zoning for consideration.

As co-chair of the now disbanded Memorial Park Task Force, Jim Fassler asked the council to "go ahead with due diligence on the properties we recommended." After several meetings and site visits, the group recommended West Redoubt as its number-one choice, followed by city-owned land east of the Soldotna Municipal Airport runway and privately owned property on Knight Drive.

Following the discussion Wednesday, Councilman Jim Stogsdill requested no action be taken on a cemetery plan until after the first of the year.

In other business, Mayor Dave Carey said he had contacted several search firms seeking a proposal for finding a new city manager after Boedeker retires next fall.

A special meeting was scheduled for noon today for council members to review proposals submitted by two of the recruiting firms.

Boedeker reported that a $1.1 million bequest was made adding to a scholarship fund for the city to award to Soldotna students.

"This could provide 10 to 12 scholarships to students forever," Carey said.

The council also approved an agreement with the Kenai Watershed Forum to use the white house in Soldotna Creek Park as its office and education center.

Resolution 2007-068 was approved, authorizing Mayor Carey to sign a joint resolution with Kenai and the Kenai Peninsula Borough requesting the Alaska Board of Fish adopt regulations reducing hydrocarbon discharge into the Kenai River.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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