Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Kenai’s cemetery will get a new veteran’s columbarium after successful amendment of the city’s budget by council member James Baisden during a Kenai City Council meeting on June 5.

Baisden’s amendment, which was passed unanimously by the council, called for an appropriation of $25,000 from the city’s general fund to the cemetery improvement capital project fund.

Adding a new veteran’s columbarium is something Baisden has explored for years, he said during the meeting. A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains, and one is present at the old Kenai Cemetery.

The City of Kenai charges for niches in the existing columbarium, City Manager Terry Eubank said.

“Most of us are aware that we have a large veteran population here in the local, Kenai area,” Baisden said. “It’d be great for the City of Kenai. We take care of our veterans.”

The existing columbarium doesn’t meet contemporary standards, Baisden said, specifically in the size of the plate affixed to each niche. As work is being done on the new section of the cemetery, he said now is the time to invest in such a show of respect, which he expects will only be in greater need “in the near future.”

Details like how many niches could be included in the columbarium haven’t yet been decided, Baisden said. He anticipates something similar in size to the one at the old cemetery, but said allocating the funds would get the ball rolling. The structure would be specifically for veterans.

“I picked $25,000,” he said. “It’s probably a low number, because I also want to get the local community — our veterans — involved. If we need more than that, I think we could easily raise it.”

No timeline for construction or design was specified during the June 5 meeting. The amendment and later the full budget document were passed unanimously by the city council.

A full recording of the meeting is available at kenai.city.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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