Crematory foes, supporters slug it out

In the first round of what some likened to a boxing match, Bremerton School District officials and Navy Yard City residents came out swinging against a crematory planned for their neighborhood.

During the four-hour hearing Thursday, Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Terry McCarthy heard evidence regarding the thoroughness of the environmental review and took testimony on the site plan itself.

McCarthy opted to keep the record open for 14 days for the school district and business owners to review all the evidence. McCarthy has up to two weeks after that to issue a decision.

More than 100 people gathered at the West Side Improvement Center in Navy Yard City to voice their concerns.

“The county has not performed due diligence on the material provided by Kass Funeral Homes,” said Kevin Ferguson, finance and operations director, who also served as legal representation for the school district.

He questioned whether the Kasses had obtained both the site plan permit and the nod from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. He claimed the permit from the latter was issued to Acme Cremation Services, which according to his research is owned by Kass Funeral Homes.

Ferguson and others appealing the project cited concerned with mercury emissions and their effects on people living in the area.

Dennis Reynolds, attorney representing funeral home owners Kent and Mary Kass argued an environmental review was not necessary because of the pre-existing building. A representative from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency testified the retort (incinerating device) that would operate in the crematory has had no compliance problems.

A 30-day window to appeal the agency’s decision has since closed.

The crematory’s smoke stack, which would be located about 96 feet from a residence and 1,000 feet from West Hills Elementary School, would have less emissions than a hamburger stand or a diesel truck, Kent Kass said.

Steven Van Slyke, a supervisory engineer for the clean air agency, said having a school nearby was “not a factor in the review as far as our decision.” All air quality standards are the same and the crematory’s design met the criteria, he said.

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