Kenai to take public comment on veteran's memorial

Kenai to take public comment on veteran’s memorial

  • Wednesday, March 19, 2014 12:06am
  • News

After nearly a year of debate about the design of a monument in Leif Hanson Memorial Park, the Kenai City Council will hear from the public for the first time during tonight’s meeting.

One month after the park memorial was installed last summer, creator Scott Hammond received word that some city council members had raised concerns to administration about a cross displayed on the statue. The 12-foot monument shows a soldier kneeling in front of a cross with the inscription, “Never Forgotten.”

Kenai resident Bob Myles, a member of the National Veterans of Foreign Wars Committee, will give a 10-minute presentation to the city council addressing the complaints from his perspective. Myles, who served six years in the Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam, said he expects to see a large turnout of veterans at the meeting.

“The symbol does not represent religion, it is a memorial tomb for a fallen soldier,” he said. “I do not want it changed and I have talked to a number of people who have the same view as me.”

Kenai city council member Terry Bookey said he heard from a couple citizens last summer who were concerned about the statue as a potential liability to the city. Relating to the separation of church and state, Bookey said he was made aware of a similar memorial monument with a cross was proposed in Lake Elsinore Calif. The city was threatened with a lawsuit and eventually prohibited the statue from being built.

Bookey and council member Ryan Marquis brought the concerns from the public to the attention of city administrators and city attorney Scott Bloom. Bookey said he asked if the city would be open to a liability because of the depiction of a cross on the monument.

“As a council we have to look out for city not based on what our personal beliefs are, but for what is best for city as whole,” Bookey said. “Right now the monument is not an agenda item and has not been discussed by council.”

Hammond, owner of Metal Magic, said the council members concern of a religious symbol on city property is hypocritical. The City of Kenai has the Russian Orthodox Church on its seal, he said.

Hammond said the design is in respect to the Vietnam War veterans and the cross is recognized as a memorial tomb for fallen soldiers. When asked by city administration if he would compromise and consider moving the statue to in front of the VFW building, refused because it was built specifically for the memorial park, he said.

Hammond said he has contacted the Organization of American Center for Law and Justice, which deals with the separation of church and state issues. Because the primary effect of the cross is a soldier grave marker, he said they ruled there was nothing unconstitutional and it was acceptable on public property.

Hundreds of thousands of graves are marked with a cross all over the country, he said. Despite the concerns raised from council, he said he hasn’t heard any complaints about his monument.

“Not to be an eccentric artist but I believe it has the right to be there,” he said. “It’s not like I built a 12-foot cross. It is obvious what it is.”

Hammond said he will attend the council meeting but doesn’t plan to speak unless any council members have a question for him. During the whole process, he said he invited the two council members who raised the issue to talk with him but he has not heard from them.

“They would rather have the issue go away, but I refuse,” he said. “If we don’t deal with it now, sooner or later the community will have to make a decision. Let the chips fall where they may I am prepared to fight for it.”

More in News

From left, Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, east side setnetter Ken Coleman and Konrad Jackson present information about a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for east side setnet fishery permits during a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Senate committee hears setnet buyback bill

The East Side of Cook Inlet Set Net Fleet Reduction Act is sponsored by Nikiski Sen. Jesse Bjorkman

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, presides over a mostly empty House chamber at the end of an hourslong recess over education legislation on Monday in Juneau (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Tie vote kills early House debate on education funding

Lawmakers went into an hourslong recess that ended with adjournment until Tuesday morning

Mock-up illustration of in-development Kahtnu Area Transit Bus (Image courtesy Kenaitze Indian Tribe)
Kenaitze purchase Kenai’s former Kendall Ford building for transportation hub

Hetl Qenq’a will also serve as a hub for the upcoming Kahtnu Area Transit, a fixed route public bus service

Peninsula Clarion government and education reporter Ashlyn O’Hara stands in the hallways of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau on Monday. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Clarion reporter working in Juneau for legislative exchange

Reporter Ashlyn O’Hara will be covering statewide issues with a local lens

Voters fill out their ballots at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, Alaska on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman leads local campaign finance pack, reports show

The reports, due Feb. 15 for candidates running for state office in 2024, offer a glimpse at the position from which candidates will start this election year

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
Caitlin Babcock addresses students during Luke Herman’s government class at Soldotna High School on Feb. 8 in Soldotna.
Amid education funding shortfalls, local students advocate for support

‘This state will lose us and generations of students after’

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney, center, and representatives of Aspen Creek Senior Living celebrate a ribbon-cutting during a grand opening event at Aspen Creek Senior Living in Soldotna, Feb. 9.
Aspen Creek celebrates expansion, readies to widen its community

The facility is in one of the areas described in the city’s Soldotna Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Plan

Department of Health logo. (Graphic by Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula resident dies of Alaskapox, 1st documented fatal case

Seven total infections of Alaskapox have been reported to the State’s Section of Epidemiology

In this image provided by the Cooper Landing Emergency Services, emergency personnel respond to reports of an avalanche on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Cooper Landing, Alaska. One backcountry skier died and two others were injured in an avalanche on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, as warm weather raises the risk for such events in the state. (Clay Adam/Cooper Landing Emergency Services via AP)
Anchorage man killed in Kenai Peninsula avalanche

The avalanche swept away three backcountry skiers

Most Read