Come November, the Mercer Island City Council is scheduled to begin holding its regular meetings in the Mercer Island Community and Event Center’s Slater Room.
With city hall shuttered since mid-April after the discovery of asbestos-contaminated broken tiles in the boiler room, which contains two air-handling units, council has been holding hybrid meetings with members participating remotely.
At its Sept. 19 meeting, council passed a consent agenda bill to appropriate $82,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act Fund to upgrade the Slater Room with audio-visual capabilities and other equipment for public meeting use, according to the city. City Manager Jessi Bon said at the meeting that council should be set to gather in person again at its Nov. 7 meeting.
The Slater Room will also feature hybrid capability, and eventually the city’s boards and commissions will hold their meetings at that site and move away from the hybrid model.
As for the aging city hall structure, environmental safety experts noted during a comprehensive report on July 19 that they located asbestos in some settled dust samples and within two HVAC system filters and flooring during additional sampling, according to a previous Reporter article. Also during their extensive testing, experts revealed that there were no positive tests for airborne asbestos.
Following several rounds of testing, the city was informed of a preliminary cost estimate of $10.2 million for removal and replacement of equipment and materials and finishes in order for city staff to re-occupy the building. At the July 19 meeting, several councilmembers said they didn’t feel it is worth the city spending the money on a declining building.
At council’s Oct. 3 meeting, Bon will deliver an update and review of the situation, “and we’ll be asking you to formally direct me to take the necessary steps to permanently close city hall,” she said, noting that staff and consulting teams continue preparing for long-term planning discussions regarding replacing city hall.
Bon added that on the winterization front and anticipating a long-term closure of city hall, the building’s water service has been deactivated and plumbing systems drained to prevent frozen pipes should an early bout of harsh weather slam the area.
YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES NEWS
Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (YFS) will benefit from an increased annual donation of $515,000 from its foundation.
At its Sept. 19 meeting, city council unanimously voted to accept the amount and authorized Bon to sign a four-year funding agreement for 2023-2026. Also at the meeting, all seven council members gave the nod to allocate $100,000 in 2024 to continue funding Islander Middle School’s second mental health counselor position.
YFS Administrator Derek Franklin noted at the meeting: “This support is critical, and I think one thing that we’ve learned over the past three years, especially, was just the role behavioral health plays in the overall health of any community. I think with this kind of support, it just really demonstrates the commitment the community has in general for that kind of support moving forward.”