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Special Meeting w/ School District, Sustainability, City 'Dashboard' and More at Mercer Island City Council Live Blog

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

9:13 pm

City Council is adjourned.

9:10 pm

The city provides an Island Crest Way update: All sidewalk and pathway work is completed, only repairs to the mailbox pullout and some repairs on some irrigation lines and signs remain.

The mailbox pull-out along Island Crest Way still needs the sidewalk to be repoured and also needs decorative concrete and curbing. In addition, six streetlights need to be re-installed. This will happen over the next couple of weeks, said City Manager Rich Conrad. The road project is 95 percent complete.

9:09 pm

Council Member Brahm reports that the Open Space Conservancy Trust has seen significant vandalism this summer of Pioneer Park's letterboxes.

9:03 pm

Council Member Berlin asks for an update on the city's efforts to prompt Puget Sound Energy to work with the city to replace or improve the safety of the electric cable cabinets at SE 27th Street and 77th Ave. SE.

"They haven't gotten back to me on anything," said Conrad. "The frustration is they feel like they don't have to do any thing."

8:59 pm

The city will also receive comments back from the state Department of Ecology on the city's proposed Shoreline Master Plan. The plan will likely be scehduled to be heard at the end of October and the city is expecting to receive the report in November.

8:53 pm

Mayor Bassett proposes a Saturday morning study session for reviewing the city's comprehensive plan concerning the Town Center.

"It's to try and understand how the Town Center got desinged and built," said Conrad.

8:51 pm

Mayor Bassett concludes the council's regular business agenda and reviews the council's calendar for the rest of the year.

8:49 pm

Several councilmembers express an interest in tracking miles-per-gallon consumption and mileage reimbursement. Councilmember Senn asks for more information on city human services numbers.

8:40 pm

Mercer Island Youth and Family Services counselors saw an increase in parent visits, but a drop in total contacts due to an IMS counselor shifting to a drug and alcohol specialist position. Net income at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop was $769,000 and gross receipts at $1.13 million in 2011. Net income increased 37.7 percent. Volunteer hours are down, however, 6.4 percent.

"Our volunteers, to be honest, are passing away," said Corder.

8:39 pm

Reviewing economic vitality, the city has seen a 4.2 percent improvement in sales tax revenues in 2011.

8:35 pm

Corder also reviews the city's water and sewer infrastructure. The biggest infrastructure problem this city faces, according to Corder, is undersized water mains.

8:32 pm

Mayor Bassett announces that the city has met the Green Power Community Challenge, with over 650 homes signed up for Puget Sound Energy's (PSE) program. The city will receive a $25,000 grant for installation of a solar panel array at the Mercer Island Community & Event Center.

100 further homes would get an additional $5,000 grant from PSE.

8:30 pm

Corder also noted that the city received a "perfect" audit where no errors were found.

8:25 pm

Mercer Island's annual fire loss was $25,076 in 2011 per 1,000 residents — second-best on the Eastside (to Kirkland). The number of insurance claims by the city also dropped, but the city is seeing a high rate of water utility claims due to water main breaks. It's twice the average of comparable cities.

"We need to continue to invest in our water lines and infrastructure," said City Manager Conrad. "They wear out. We didn't spend what we should have in the 1980s and 1990s."

8:22 pm

Corder says the city is the second-safest on the Eastside in crime and traffic safety — second in both cases to Sammamish. Corder says over half the traffic accidents on Mercer Island occur on Interstate 90, much to Council Member Cero's irritation.

"I really wish we could exclude that," he said.

8:19 pm

And we're back. City Finance Director Chip Corder is presenting the city's 2011 Mercer Island Dashboard Report, AB 4756.

8:11 pm

The amendment and motion pass unanimously. The Council pauses for a five-minute break.

8:06 pm

Senn: "Study Sessions can be an opportunity for council members to dig in deep into a topic, where we get to ask a 'stupid question'."

8:04 pm

Cero, who made the request to televise the study sessions, said several councils televise study sessions, such as Sammamish and Sea Tac.

"It is fantastic for transparency," he said. Cero offers an amendment to limit the city's spending on the equipment to the amount budgeted in the agenda bill.

7:58 pm

Next up, City Clerk Ali Spietz is addressing the council on the cost associated with recording and broadcasting these meetings, disussed in AB 4763 Study Session Broadcasting. Spietz says there will be no additional staff cost, but the video equipment is "archaic". The equipment needing replacement will cost $6,638 if the council wants to continue to sit at a large table at the floor of the council below the dais.

7:51 pm

There appears to be a question as to whether this is a position exclusive of an authorized position for a city spokesperson that is currently unfilled.

7:47 pm

Council Member Cero says the recommendations aren't the direction he wants to go in.

"I don't see how the city's going to save money with adding another head count," he said. "I don't want to see another level of bureacracy ...  I appreciate what you did but I think it's unsustainable to add to the head count."

7:43 pm

"We have a lot to celebrate and communicate where we are, and that's why we need that report card," said Council Member Jan Mayer Brahm. " I think communication is really essential."

7:38 pm

Grady gives some direction to Taylor on the next steps — urging the task force to come up with more "tangable" goals to accomplish — like a report card where progress can be measured:

"I'm concerned with, as you try to get people's attention, you need some quick wins," he said.

7:34 pm

The City Council will accept the report. Before they move on, Council Member Grady asks questions about the Sustainability Task Force's focus on land use and trasportation.

Taylor responds that the group did not tackle major issues like transporation, and instead aimed for "low-hanging fruit".

7:29 pm

The task force focused on the following issues:

  • Waste Reduction
  • Energy Conservation
  • Water Conservation
  • Yard Toxins
  • Green Building
  • Sustainability Education and Communications

Here's the four core recommendations from the report:

  1. Create a dedicated staff position that will work with resource conservation within the City and educational outreach in the community.
  2. Approve the policy statements set forth in this document and incorporate this policy framework into all Mercer Island planning and policy documents, such as the MI Comprehensive Plan, the utilities plans, and the biennial budget.
  3. Direct staff to develop a six-year sustainability action plan.
  4. Take legislative actions by the Council to foster a culture of sustainability in the community, such as pass a plastic bag ban.

7:24 pm

City DSG Administrator and sustainability advisor Kirsten Stewart introduces Sustainability Task Force Chair Don Cohen with AB 4770, Sustainability Task Force Final Recommendations.

"All of them collectively believe these are issues that are important to our community today and into the future."

7:20 pm

Some gentle ribbing of Council Member Cero after the council passes minutes and consent calendar unanimously, no objections. Cero often asks for more information about items on the consent calendar agenda. Several city staff members happily stream out of the council chambers.

7:18 pm

Callie Ridolfi, a member of local sustainabiity non-profit IslandVision, offers supportive comments on sustainability goals and advocates for increasing public awareness of energy use and savings.

7:17 pm

Sustainability Task Force member Jonathan Harrington thanks the city and hopes the city will adopt measures to achieve their goals.

7:15 pm

Ira Appelman laments the fact that it seems cities only seem to pass resolutions on hunger rather than taking actual action to prevent hunger.

"I'd rather see the council get together with other cities and see how much money it would take to avoid another person dying on the streets," he said.

7:13 pm

Roberta Lindowski expresses her appreciation for considering the incorporation of the Sustainability Task Force's

"I think the Sustainability Task Force's work will take us forward 5 or 10 years."

7:11 pm

MIYFS Director Cindy Goodwin says that the food bank's use on Mercer Island has again increased 17 percent over last year.

7:06 pm

Mayor Bassett issues a proclamation, naming today, Sept. 24 as the Mayor’s Day of Concern for the Hungry, and naming September as Recovery Month.

"National Recovery Month increases awareness that treatment works, recovery is possible and benefits everyone," Bassett said.

7:03 pm

City Council's regular meeting is convened.

6:53 pm

The special meeting is adjourned.

6:51 pm

Plano hands over a check to Mayor Bassett and the city for $25,000 per the MISD's interlocal agreement with City Hall on Island Crest Park. A booster club raised nearly $200,000 to renovate the varsity baseball outfield with artificial turf, and the school district is paying the city a portion of money to facilitate the improvements based on the school's use of the park.

6:46 pm

Plano says there were 169 births in 2007 and that was factored into their methodology.

"New families are moving in and displacing empty-nesters. They're transforming neighborhoods — they're moving in," said Plano. "There isn't evidence that the public wants us to maintain what you have and keep the kids in the portables."

"The evidence that we're seeing is planning for the future," Plano said.

6:46 pm

Cero weighs in that he would do what he could to help the

6:43 pm

Grausz and Grady both say they want to visualize what the schools might look like. Plano says the company they're hiring for public engagement, Triangle, offers a "technology" aspect, like a website where visitors can see what schools would look like under the various options.

6:41 pm

Board President Frohnmayer reflected on the previous process that resulted in the failed bond this April.

"We tried to do that before but obviously too many people didn't know what was going on," she said.

6:36 pm

Mayor Bruce Bassett asks Plano what he and the city can do to help the MISD. Bertlin asks about including preschool facilities at the new building.

Plano says the MISD is already doing that at PEAK with the preschool there, but hasn't examined the new construction: "We haven't contemplated that, but the public can certainly weigh-in during the public comment process."

6:33 pm

Councilmember Tana Senn asks about possible increases in traffic at the so-called mega block, allowing Emanuels to verbally pivot with a good-natured dig at the council on the so-called Road Diet.

6:29 pm

The school board also weighs in on the high school option, which would significantly add to capacity at the high school.

"We're certainly not pushing that option, but we want to see what the public reaction is," said School Board Director Brian Emanuels. "We kept that option on there to hear what they'd say.

6:26 pm

Grady says he's worried about the long-term option of building a new high school on the mega block, and the impacts that would have.

Plano: "It is possible to have a 1,600 student school on that campus," Plano said. 

6:25 pm

Grasuz: "In terms of continuing your fine arts program, if you lose YTN, you effectively lose that part of your program. Even though it's not yours — it's yours, you know?"

6:20 pm

Grausz asks what the MISD can do to help Youth Theatre Northwest find a new home. YTN is currently located at the old junion high school building at it's current location thatthe school district needs to build a news school.

"They do perform a critical education function in the community," said Grausz.

Plano said that several members of the board have said they're not sure they could put stadium improvements and renovations of the Mary Wayte Pool on the new bond.

"Are these 'Mission Critical' items?" asked Plano. "These were on the previous bond, that failed."

School Board Director Myerson responds: "That gets on the table, as far as I'm concerened. I'd like to partner with the community on this."

6:17 pm

Council member Tana Senn says she is concerned by the "equity" finiding of the survey that stated a small minority was concerned with giving local students equal access to newer faciliities.

6:15 pm

A little skirmishing on the Growth Management Act between City Councilmember Mike Cero and Conrad.

"We really need to be concerned by this 5,000 person objective," he said. "We don't have to say OK. The last census showed that we increased our population by only 663 people."

6:08 pm

Grausz points out that the population of Mercer Island is aging, and said it was working against the MISD.

Conrad observes that the average size of households has bottomed out in the 1980s and 1990s and is growing again (Ed. Note: The average household size on Mercer Island declined to below 3 people from 2000 to 2010.)

6:05 pm

Conrad discusses planned population growth and impact mitigation fees developers are paying to help pay for local schools. Conrad said the Island is about 3/5 developed.

"None of this is random," Conrad said. "All of this has been planned out some time ago."

6:00 pm

Plano responds to City Councilmember Debbie Bertlin's question on how the MISD has adjusted it's estimate of students downward by 300 students by the 2020-2021 school year. Plano said he had adjusted enrollment based on development in the Town Center and occupancy rates of school-age children the new buildings. The MISD said it believed that .25 students would arrive, but in fact they generated slightly more than that.
The MISD uses a "Cohort survival methodology" which tracks the kindergarten for 5 years.

"We believe that in 2017-2018 our enrollment will level off," said Plano.
The school district's projections do not take into account what happens if the train station arrives, or if the city allows more density in downtown.

5:53 pm

A question from City Councilmember Jane Mayer Brahm asks about a proposal to park school buses "under Interstate 90". Plano clarifies that the buses would be potentially kept at the City Boat Launch parking lot.

"It's a technical problem and technically it could happen," said Plano.

"It's a possibility," said Conrad. "We'll have to see next April, but it's possible."

5:51 pm

As with any public-private partnership, the district must meet transortation requirements, said Conrad, and the MISD has given the city an outline of transportation planning and impacts for any new construction of a new school.

5:49 pm

City Manager Rich Conrad advocates significant changes to the city's zoning requirements for school property and permeable surface regulations.

"Maybe impervious surface regulations is somewhere we can give if we can get "green" in some other way," Conrad said.

5:46 pm

Fielding a question from Deputy Mayor Dan Grausz, Plano also mentions that parking for the school buses could be moved to another site to make way for an enlarged Islander Stadium.

5:43 pm

Board director Pat Braman also notes that there are additional needs for school programming that is currently unmet, including facility improvements for art, science and world language construction.

In addition, all of the buildings under consideration are two stories.

5:38 pm

Plano detailed the third option, building a new high school and using the existing Mercer Island High School building as a new, larger middle school and making the middle school 5-8. The cost for this new building is roughly $111.6 million and with additional needs reaches a total of $114.1 to $117.2 million.

Some of the additional needs include defered maintanance on Islander Stadium and Mary Wayte Pool. That includes a new pressbox, bathrooms and partial covering for the east end of the stadium.

5:33 pm

The MISD could build a new middle school on the 'Mega Block' for only grades 7 and 8, and move grade 5 into the current Islander Middle School building, and shifting to a 3-2-1 school facility model. The district could also make both the schools 5-8. This option would cost roughly $50.9 million and with additional needs, $62.3-$64.1 million total.

5:29 pm

Plano said the board will solicit comments from the public on three main options and will hire a public outreach firm. The MISD could build an elementary school by 2015 and house 500 students.

An elementary school would cost roughly $30.4 million an including other needs, a total bond would cost anywhere from $44.9 to $110.1 million. Plano also reviews a "budget option" and "budget-plus option".

5:27 pm

MISD Superintendent Gary Plano reviews the work done on moving forward on the work the school district has done with the city to find an appropriate site for a new school.

"The board has been studying a number of possible options on the 'Mega Block," Plano said.

5:23 pm

Mercer Island School Board President Janet Frohnmayer opens the meeting by reviewing the work the school board has done in outlining three options and will meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Solve capacity problem,
  • Do so at a lower cost than the
  • Will at least satisfy our educational needs moving forward.

5:21 pm

City Council meeting has begun at City Hall.

Peter Landsman September 25, 2012 at 03:08 AM
"The school district's projections do not take into account what happens if the train station arrives..." Why not? Light rail is coming to Mercer Island. East Link is funded and in final design, with construction beginning in 2015.
Kendall Watson September 25, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Supt. Plano said it's because it's difficult to predict the impact of that.

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