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Fire Station/Truck Bond, Collective Bargaining for Firefigters and More at Mercer Island City Council Live Blog

Get the latest updates from the Mercer Island City Council Meeting.

10:56

City council is adjourned.

10:50

Bertlin asks City Manager Conrad about that knocked out power in Town Center near , and any steps the city could take to prevent it from happening again. Conrad responds that power line cabinets are Puget Sound Energy's via an easement from , and date back to the 1960s or 70s. When the property was redeveloped, the boxes were left unaltered — which Conrad said left the city little authority to regulate them.

"The property owner and PSE have indicated an openness to do something about it," he said. "But nobody has taken any action."

10:45

Councilmember Debbie Bertlin reports back from the Planning Commission's meeting and coming recommendations on downtown zoning restrictions. The "no-net loss" rule is recommended to be eliminated, and to remove parking from the discussion. Another recommendation to alter the 60-40 rule resulted in a split vote.

10:37

City council rearranges its calendar, cancelling an Aug. 20 meeting and will next meet on Sept. 4. The council might also meet on Sept. 10.

10:35

Council wraps up regular business and moves into other business.

10:23

An interesting taste of Islander protectionism practiced at Mercer Island Parks and Recreation, while discussing the calendar system that the MISD and parks use to coordinate use of facilities: "There's always this worry of a rogue group from Seattle taking over our field"

10:21

Cero asks about the renovation of the old Boys and Girls Club. City Manager Conrad explains that the agreement is exclusively between the MIBGC and Mike O'Brien, a former NFL player and owner of the large automobile sales business.

10:18

City Parks Director Bruce Fletcher says the city is currently programming 5 of the 6 hours per week alotted to the city.

10:11

Cero weighs in with a few questions. Stewart reviews the agreement of 6 hours per week of programming time in exchange for the city's initial investment of $1 million.

10:00

The city reaches its last regular business item, Agenda Bill 4750, PEAK Project Agreement Monitoring Status Report. City DSG Administrator Kirsten Taylor reviews the agreement.

"Things with PEAK are going well. We are getting minimal complaints," she said.

9:55

A consensus of the council moves the city dashboard report, Agenda Bill 4756, 2011 Mercer Island Dashboard Report to "another night". AB 4753, an Interlocal Agreement with MISD for Counseling Services is also rescehduled.

9:54

City Manager Conrad gives a little history lesson how labor law works in Washington. Public sector employees a long time ago gave up the right to strike, said Conrad, while the Legislature is lobbied heavily by the unions.

"This is the best we can do."

Grady uses a parliamentary proceedure to "call the question", ending the debate. The motion passes and the bill to award the contract is approved unanimously.

9:48

Segle: It took us more money in 2009 versus 2012 to get to the midpoint of salaries, which were therefore more expensive. City Manager Conrad weighs in that the biggest single driver of conpensation is health care costs.

"We've been trying to say that, but it doesn't seem to get through. It's a national problem."

9:43

City councilman Mike Cero starts to address the council about keeping costs down and, as he comes to his point, an emergency call comes across the radioes of the four s on-duty in the council chambers and they all rush out of the room.

Nervous and awkward laughter from the city council as Cero, questioning the agreement, is trying to drill down into the firefighter's compensation — as they rush off to do their job.

9:40

At issue is the contract between the city and the firefighter's union, Mercer Island Fire Union Local 1762. Overall salaries and benefits will be increased by 3.64% in 2012 if the contract is approved.

9:37

And we're back with a presentation of Agenda Bill 4758, the Fire Collective Bargaining Agreement. City Human Resources Director Kryss Segle is presenting the bill's details.

9:30

Motion to hire a project manager before the bond passes fails, 3-4. Bassett, Grady and Brahm support the failed motion.

City council pauses for a 5 minute break.

9:25

Mayor Bassett says he's confortable with the original motion, which would give city a two month head-start on planning the new building. The motion fails 3-4, Bertlin, Senn and Grausz support. Grausz returns with another amendment to restrict spending to $5,000. Motion passes, 6-1, Brahm opposed.

9:18

Grausz moves to restrict spending money on a project manager until after the bond is approved by voters.

9:15

Motion by Mayor Bassett to appoint citizens to the pro and con committees comes forward. Jim Pearman, El Jahncke and Patty Darling have volunteered to write the "pro" statement, but the con side doesn't yet have three people named. Motion passes unanimously.

9:10

Bassett says the station is 50 years old and says building in a "little flexibility" at the fire station in the form of a "fourth cot" or a "conference room" is prudent.

"It's just not fair to call this an extravagance."

City Attorney Katie Knight clarifies that the public hearing is in compliance with state law.

The agenda bill passes 6-1, Cero opposed.

9:05

Deputy Mayor Grausz reminds Cero that the sinking fund to help fund fire apparatus needs was created by hiking property taxes and said he doubted Cero would ever support a similar motion because it would require him to vote to support raising taxes, which Grausz claimed Cero had never done.

Grausz also points out that the current city budget is unsustainable and the bond is "fiscally responsible".

9:02

Senn, who made an impassioned plea to Cero to support the bond last meeting, is claiming that his opposition may end up costing citizens more overall in the long run.

9:00

"It's a satellite station with a limited mission," said Cero. "We don't need a conference room there ... the fire station is turning nearly extravagant."

8:54

"I do believe, by and large that the fire station needs to be replaced. But that's not a blank check," said Cero. "I also campaigned for it, but it's not a blank check."

Cero goes on to criticize the bond that by including the truck in the bond the council is sending a message of poor fiscal discipline. Councilmember Cero definitely has the floor here — almost all the councilmembers are looking straight at him (nope, now Deputy Mayor Grausz is looking too). They really want his vote, but Cero is determined to advocate his view of conservative spending — and that appears to be at the expense of supporting the fire station/truck bond.

8:52

"We need that station to support our population moving forward," said Bertlin.

8:48

Cero tries (again) to change the bond to be used only on rebuilding a fire station, but the motion dies for lack of a second.

Deputy Mayor Grausz clarifies (apparently disagreeing with an earlier comment from city attorney Katie Knight) that the money will be only used for the purposed stated here tonight: A new fire station and a new fire truck.

8:47

The motion passes 5-2, Brahm and Grady opposed.

8:45

The staff say they can get it below 8,000, said Senn, so she can support the deputy mayor's motion. The square footage of the building proposed is proportionate to the current population.

8:43

Deputy Mayor Grausz moves to restrict the size of the proposed fire station to a maximum, however feasable given public safety concerns, to no more than 8,000 square feet. That's just under double the size of the current building, I believe.

8:40

City Attorney Katie Knight, who is back after an extended leave of absence, advises the council that the purpose — make that scope — of the bond is still subject to change at the whim of the council after the vote this evening.

8:35

Now this seems pretty important: City Manager Rich Conrad details that a Fire Station design of less than 8,000 square feet is possible.

Mayor Bassett asks why there wasn't a "public hearing" before the bond proposal was brought forward. Conrad replies that the fire station bond has been discussed starting last November and Councilmember Jane Meyer Brahm mentions that two open houses were held at Station 92. 

8:34

Sewer Lake Line cash will also fund a city project manager for the new fire station.

8:32

Fire Chief Chirs Tubbs, responding to funding fire equipment and truck replacement: "Clearly there are some funding challenges for the council."

8:29

Treat mentions the "vacant city communications position". I wasn't sure when that position was authorized, but it must have happened sometime this year (it was cut in 2008 or 2009, I believe). Some of the money that was overbudgeted for the Sewer Lake Line Project was directed to fund this position.

8:25

Cero airs concers over the impartiality of city communications on the bond measure. City Manager Conrad reminds the council that the State Public Disclosure Commission regulates these types of communications and that advocacy is strictly forbidden.

Interestingly, according to Treat, that includes city email accounts.

8:23

Deptuy City Manager Noel Treat asks the council to take action tonight because the deadline for submitting the measure on the ballot is tomorrow, Aug. 7, and pro and con committee names must be sent to King County Elections by Aug. 10. Treat also outlines steps on how to inform the community through a "public information" campaign.

8:21

Calling his estimate conservative, Corder assumes a 5 percent decline in property assessments next year (2013). The $700,000 home (the median) will see and annual property tax increase of $60.20. The $955,000 home (the average) will see an estimated increase of approximately $86 per year.

8:20

Quick recap from City finance Director Chip Corder: $5.22 million in debt for a rebuilt Fire Station 92 and a new Fire Rescue truck.

8:18

And we're back. Next up, Agenda Bill 4757, Fire Station and Fire Rescue Truck Ballot Measure Ordinance (2nd Reading).

8:12

Council takes a quick break. Seated in front of me, City Council critic and frequent public commenter Mr. Appelman dials an unknown friend on his cell phone and unwittingly puts her colorful comment on speakerphone.

"What the hell are they doing over there?" asks the caller.

8:10

Breaking news? City Councilmembers will get their own letterhead. Deputy Mayor Grausz moves that city staff create new letterhead. Motion passes unanimously.

8:07

Here's the key language that's under debate as a new rule for the body of city council:

"Use of City Letterhead. Use of City letterhead by the City Council shall be confined to conduct of official City business or communicating messages of the City. City letterhead of any kind shall only be used by the City Council at the direction of the Mayor or his or her designee. At no time shall an individual Councilmember use City letterhead to communicate individual or personal messages or opinions."

8:05

"It's a slippery slope," said City Manager Conrad, in response to allowing councilmembers to have their own letterhead with a city logo.

8:00

Council continues to debate the use of letterhead.

7:55

City Councman Mike Cero defends himself, requesting a closer look at generally acceptable council behavior, and said he only used the letterhead twice.

"The letterhead supplies a certain sobriety or gravistas that I wanted to communicate," Cero said.

7:53

Mayor Bassett asks for a rule change that restricts use of City Council letterhead, based on the use of the letterhead by Cero to address other members of the city council.

7:50

Deputy City Attorney Dan Grausz moves AB 4759 for approval that Mercerdale Park is not for sale. Passes 6-1.

7:48

Cero moves a motion to allow the park land to be transferred school district, but that dies for lack of a second.

7:47

As is his habit, Deputy Mayor looks for some consensus by picking out some of Cero's sentiment that the city should do what it can to aid the MISD in locating a site for another school. But he's a no as well.

"It's the one gathering area of this community that is used repeatedly," he said. "I think we could all agree that this community could use a place to gather."

Mayor Bassett is also opposed.

7:43

Councilmember Jane Meyer Brahm is a definite no. "The School District needs a home run," she said. "This would be a disaster."

7:40

Cero plays devil's advocate and reviews the "many positive issues that would save the community money" by going through with the sale. Cero seems to be leaning towards allowing the proposal to move forward.

For those of you not watching the council meeting on TV, the usually clean-shaven Cero is also sporting a beard.

7:37

So far, Councilmembers Grady, Bertlin and Senn are opposed to the sale of .

"Looking at what the city has, our finite resources, albeit to a school — we can't get that back," said Senn.

7:32

Acting City Attorney Scott Snyder reminds the council that the executive session was held to poll the council on interest of selling Mercerdale, and that the council said no.

7:30

Councilmember Debbie Bertlin asks the council to come to a consensus on how to move forward with debating particular properties at the behest of the so-called MISD-City Council ad hoc committee.

7:28

Cero thanks the mayor and deputy mayor for acknowledging his memo to the council and addressing his concerns. Councilmember Mike Grady urges the council to hold a public hearing on all future consideration of selling park land.

7:23

Before the discussion over AB 4759 Mercerdale Park/Hillside School Development gets off the ground, acting attorney Scott Snyder acknowledges an error made in citing the reason for an executive session to discuss the possible property sale of Mercerdale Park to the MISD.

"Subsection B that was cited — that was an error," said Snyder. "I take responsibility." Mayor Bassett also admits the mistake, raised by Mr. Appelman during public comments. Snyder mentions that the remedy is to undo any action taken, but no action was taken so no action was needed.

7:20

AB 4753, an Interlocal Agreement with MISD for Counseling Services, is pulled and Cero asks MIYFS Director Cindy Goodwin to explain why there is a near-20 percent increase in staff cost. Deputy Mayor Dan Grausz agrees and they move the ratification of the contract to the end of the meeting to give staff time to explain why the increase occurred.

7:10

Concilmember Mike Cero, as he frequently does, pulls several items off the Consent Calendar, items where the council can take action on multiple items that need — in the judgement of the mayor, deputy mayor and city manager — little council discussion.

He asks a series of questions about payable expenses from city accounts. This time, Cero asks about a Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce billing, firefighter helmets and $8,000 for EarthCorps to fight invasives in Mercer Island Parks.

"Seems like a lot of money at minimum wage for that."

Once the questions are answered from staff, Councilmember Tana Senn asks a process question about the best way to address questions on payables to City Manager Rich Conrad. Conrad's answer:

"It's very helpful to have advance notice," Conrad said. "A little bit of advance notice is handy so you don't catch us unaware." Later, Conrad added, "Frankly, the style of the council over the last couple of years has been to dive into the claims. You guys like to dive into the claims."

7:05

City Council passes the June 18 minutes unanimously, but June 26 minutes were adopted by five councilmembers. Councilmembers Mike Cero and Mike Grady abstained.

Mayor Bassett amends the minutes for July 16.

Payroll adopted unanimously.

7:00

City Council meeting has begun at .

Public Comment: First up is Ira Appelman, commenting on the city's public transparency.

"I think this is unprecendented that there has been no public hearing on the new levy lid lift."

Citizen Callie Rudolfi steps to the mike, as a representative of Island Vision, a local environmental non-profit. She wants to acknowledge the work of the council sustatainability task force and approved recommendations to council.

Kendall Watson August 07, 2012 at 06:24 AM
So what do you think of blogging the city council meeting? I admit, it's a little long and I might get a little over-descriptive. If you've got any helpful comments, please let me know!
Ken Glass August 07, 2012 at 01:18 PM
I really like it...thanks for doing it!
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA August 07, 2012 at 03:51 PM
. NorthEnd Voters voting for a SouthEnd FireStation?
Kendall Watson August 07, 2012 at 04:30 PM
That's correct, Jerry. The taxes will be spread across the entire city, if the levy lid lift passes.
Ken Glass August 07, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Jerry, I hope that was tongue in cheek. It's the entire community's responsibility for the entire community's safety. The North End station was rebuilt in 1998 using funds provided by all Mercer Islanders, based on information gleaned from http://www.mercergov.org/Page.asp?NavID=2070. Of course, this is the way it should be.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA August 07, 2012 at 11:10 PM
. Ken- The South-end Fire Station Should be Remodeled and Enlarged- Not Demolished as stated in my previous BlogPost. Anyone driving by as we do every day, can see this would make more sense since a big new one already exists. Jerry- http://mercerisland.patch.com/blog_posts/south-end-fire-station-should-be-remodeled-enlarged-not-demolished#photo-10749324
Kendall Watson August 07, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Jerry, did you have a chance to go to the "Open House" events at Station 92 when the city via the architects were soliciting public feedback?
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA August 08, 2012 at 12:09 AM
. No I didn't. Public input is a good thing (after what's to be done is decided). J-
Jorge Corrigan August 08, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Anyone who has really visited the interior of the station can readily see it needs replacement. NOT remodeling as a poster above wrongly suggests. The south station also provides service to all parts of the island when needed (which happens regularly due to the north station being on another call). Thanks.
Marty Gale August 08, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Kendall - The blogging is very effective. Gives a feel for the meeting AND provides a time log. People who want to view a particular section can click onto the online version of the meeting (when the City posts it) or see it at 10am on channel 21 and just fast forward to the time you have entered. Hope you use this style of reporting the meeting again. Thanks. Marty
JasonK August 08, 2012 at 02:48 AM
The southend fire station is build with unreinforced cement blocks. Any architect can tell you that it is a fragile form of construction that won't withstand a major or even intense earthquake. And our Island is directly on the Seattle fault zone. This facility needs to be replaced for public safety reasons. Input opportunities have been going on for years...for those who haven't participated, where have you been?
JasonK August 08, 2012 at 02:50 AM
build = built Thanks, Kendall, for blogging the Council meeting. It is helpful in understanding what went on.
Kendall Watson August 08, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Yes sir, you're welcome! Looks like a winner. I'll do it again at the next meeting on Sept.4th!
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA August 08, 2012 at 05:40 AM
. Hard to believe no reinforcing. This architect did many designs for the Unit Masonrry Association. Steel bars were always part of the Code-governed building process from the early days. J-
Robert T. Brown August 08, 2012 at 07:10 AM
The blogging is a good format, and has also worked for other news websites. The other main Mercer Island news agency still hasn't reported on this. The demolition vs. rebuild is only a small part of the problem with the bond proposal. Bundling non-essentials, nearly doubling the size, etc. are examples of other issues it has. My new campaign website *against* the bond will be coming online soon, although I will *not* be writing on the con committee.

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