To cut or not to cut?
That is the question the Kenai City Council briefly considered Wednesday.
At issue is a 30-foot tall fir tree in front of the approved site of the Kenai mural at Kenai Municipal Airport and if the tree should be cut down to allow an unobstructed view of the mural.
The installation of the 12-foot by 24-foot mural painting, “Kenai La Belle,” by Kenai artist Fanny Ryland was has been delayed until framework to hang the nine panels can be completed since it’s completion in May, said organizer for the Paint the Kenai Project Marcus Mueller.
Prior to installation, Mueller will sign an agreement with city administration. He spoke to council Wednesday and said he had not set a date to install the mural.
“The summer has gotten away from me,” Mueller said. “(The mural) is my top priority of my non-paid efforts.
It’s something I think about on a daily basis.”
In March, the Kenai Airport Commission approved the mural to be displayed on the exterior wall between the arrivals and departures doors at the airport. None of the council members objected to the location when briefed about the project at a March 19 meeting.
The mural, which depicts salmon swimming in the Kenai River with view of the Russian Orthodox Church in Old Towne and surrounding landscape, was selected last September in the Paint the Kenai Community Mural and Pen the Kenai Writing Project. The essay, “Forged in the Fires,” by Clark Fair was chosen as the top submission and will be reproduced at the airport.
Council member Terry Bookey said the council should have a more active role in planning for installations in the city, to avoid later conflicts. He referenced the veteran’s memorial in Leif Hansen Park when the council didn’t discuss the memorial before it was installed. By having the chance to discuss before any art is displayed in the city would help resolve ambiguity, he said.
Vice Mayor Ryan Marquis asked if a decision had been made on the tree located in front of the approved mural location.
Mayor Pat Porter appeared flustered when council members briefly debated the status of the tree.
“Do you have any idea the things that go on in this city that are far more important than a tree getting cut down?” she said. “I’m going to take a quick at ease because you guys are driving me crazy.”
The council approved the location of the mural and recommended the tree in question be cut down. Council member Mike Boyle, who served in his last meeting after nine years on the council, cast the lone no vote to save the tree.
The mural was painted by volunteers using process imaging to transfer the colors on the canvass at a workspace in the Blazy Construction in Soldotna. Ryland added the final touches and then a clear coat was added to protect the piece. The city donated $500 to pay for paint materials.
Mueller said the painting is a beautiful work of art to greet visitors to the community.
The council passed three resolutions, including its capital improvements priority list for state funding requests for the upcoming year.
Kenai City Manager Rick Koch listed street paving and improvements as the No. 1 priority out of 14 listed city projects. The city is asking for $1.5 million from the state to pay for the project. Also among the requested funding projects was $1.4 million to help with wastewater treatment plant upgrades and $518,805 for renovations to the Kenai Senior Center.
Other requests include $75,000 for new restrooms at the Kenai Little League Facility and $50,000 for lighting at the Kenai Nordic Trails.
The city also weighed in on its preferences for statewide projects. Koch listed the No. 1 priority as the Kenai River South Shore Access for the dipnet fishery. The city requested $400,000 from the state to help with the project.
According to Koch’s memo to the council the Governor’s Capital Budget is usually released in mid-December and it becomes more difficult to have requests considered after the middle of November.
The council also approved the purchase of a fire department command vehicle from Cal Worthington Ford in Anchorage for $26,914. City code allows the purchase of equipment, without the opportunity for competitive bidding if the equipment is purchased through the state fleet contract-pricing contract.
Council member Bob Molloy said the council has heard from the public on its purchasing code that doesn’t allow the city to buy from local dealerships. Molloy said it would be a good idea to discuss the purchasing code to look at buying local in the future.
The council discussed a permanent protection of the flower field along Lawton Drive. Porter said the item was added to the agenda before the incident Monday when an intoxicated driver drove through the field and damaged the flowers.
Kenai resident Holly Spann, with the beautification committee, said the committee discussed having a small fence around the perimeter of the field and a pathway to avoid flowers getting trampled when the field blooms next year. They also considered permanent signs to notify residents not to pick the flowers.
Boyle said he would hate to see the city take something simple like a field of flowers and overthink it with too much protection.
“Allow people to enjoy it as it is,” he said. “It’s a wonderful concept.”
Porter said while the vandalism is disappointing, people make mistakes and everyone is guilty of something at some point. What is important is people move on and learn from their mistakes, she said.
At the conclusion of his last meeting, Boyle thanked the citizens for their support during his time and said it had been an enjoyable experience.
Marquis said he appreciated Boyle’s “candor and tenacity” and all he has done for the citizens of Kenai.
“I feel like I owe you an apology for throwing eggs at your house when I was 13,” Marquis said.
“Apology accepted,” Boyle said. “We all make mistakes.”
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org