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

The badge for the Kenai Police Department (Clarion file)
Walmart briefly evacuated after bomb threat

The investigation is ongoing.

Peninsula Clarion file
Merry voices to fill Kenai chamber

Historical society carolling event returns after hiatus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State officials urge vaccination as omicron spreads in US

Omicron was first identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 hunter dead, another missing after boat hits rough seas off Whittier

The pair were reportedly hunting on Wednesday on Esther Island in Prince William Sound.

Kenai City Council members James Baisden (left) and Deborah Sounart (right) listen as member Teea Winger (center) speaks in support of legislation opposing government COVID-19 mandates, during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, in Kenai.
Kenai council declares opposition to mask mandates

The statement does not change city code or supersede federal law.

Signage indicates that face masks are required for entry to the Soldotna Public Library on March 25, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The Soldotna City Council voted Wednesday to make mask-wearing optional in city facilities. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Masks recommended, not required in Soldotna city buildings

Council amends measure to make mask-wearing optional

Nick Begich III, seen here in this undated photo, is challenging Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives saying Alaska needs new energy in Washington D.C. (Courtesy photo / Alaskans for Nick Begich)
Nick Begich III touts fiscal conservatism in US House race

GOP candidate challenges Young’s record

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Fish and Game seeks comment on 2022 sport fish stocking plan

The Sport Fish Division plans to release approximately 7 million fish into the Alaska water systems over the next five years.

A map shows which parts of the Chugach National Forest are open to motorized winter recreation use for the 2021-2022 season. (Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
Parts of Chugach National Forest open to snowmachine use

The 2021-2022 winter motorized season will run through April 30.

Most Read