Opinion

New center is all about community

By Jim Pearman

Island Forum

After nearly 10 years of public outreach, research, public debate and design, our new community center is nearing completion to fulfill its role as a social focal point in our community -- I might add on time, on budget and with no new taxes!

For most of those 10 years I have been personally involved with the project serving as past chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, then as co-chair of Community Center at Mercer View Ad Hoc Committee. During my involvement I have gained a true appreciation of the contribution these centers make in their respective communities. In virtually all the communities we studied over the years, one message came through loud and clear: every community we looked at took great pride in their respective centers and viewed them as the heart of their community.

Before the doors open and the excitement of the project dominates the attention of the media and Mercer Island community, I think it is proper to identify a few individuals who played a significant role in making the community center a reality.

Foremost is the Community Center at Mercer View Ad Hoc Committee: Lynn Taylor, Bob Still, Lila Ballard, Lori Brillhart Schaloum, Jo Ferullo, Randy Mintz, John Strasburger, and a very special community servant Mary Ann Flynn who served as co-chair. This committee spent 18 months and hundreds of hours listening to all our various stakeholder groups to assess what needs were currently being met at the Mercer View Elementary School (AKA our previous community center) and what needs were not.

We heard from the seniors, Preschool Association, Arts Council, faith-based organizations, Youth and Family Services, scout troops, dance schools, yoga groups, service clubs, volleyball clubs, climbing enthusiasts, the Boys & Girls Club, pea-patch gardeners, social clubs, performing arts groups, the Mercer Island business community, historical society, high school students, weight lifters, and other interested citizens to name just a few. From one of the most exhaustive public processes in Island history, a list of amenities was created that reflected our community's unique needs; a list rooted in the concept of a multi-generational facility under one roof. This list and the work done by the Ad Hoc Committee endured the test of time and served as the foundation for our new community center. If you run into any of the committee members you might want to thank them for a job well done.

Two other community members whose contributions to the center should be acknowledged are my fellow councilmembers Sven Goldmanis and El Jahncke. Initially Sven and I were on very different sides of the issue; in the end we were not only on the same side but we, in fact jointly made and seconded the actual motion to build our community center that passed with a unanimous 7-0 vote. El's number- crunching prowess and suggestion on the actual building placement on the Mercer View site significantly reduced the budget.

It has always been my opinion that once the discussions were over and the new community center was under construction, our community, like all others we studied, would take great pride and ownership in the concept and the actual facility. I have not been disappointed! Over the past year I have witnessed the growth of this momentum in the forms of a talented citizens' advisory committee that reviewed the project initial designs, the Arts Council selecting art for the interior, the Historical Society and other citizens naming the meeting rooms, and most recently our Sister City Association orchestrating an international opening extravaganza.

I hope you will join me with many of your fellow neighbors and become involved in the celebration of our new community center as we near the grand opening later this year. If you are interested please contact Pete Mayer our Parks and Recreation director; he would love to hear from you. It's all about community!

Jim Pearman is a member of the Mercer Island City Council.

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