All seven Mercer Island City Council members voted to suspend the city’s Thrift Shop and Recycling Center Project at its Feb. 2 meeting.
Next up on the docket, City Manager Jessi Bon will lead the beginning of a restart plan, which will include identifying a short-term solution for successful and sustainable thrift shop donation processing during the pandemic.
At the meeting, Jason Kintner, Public Works chief of operations, said that thrift shop operations provide immense financial support to the city’s Youth and Family Services (YFS) Department, including $1.98 million in 2019. The shop was closed during much of the pandemic, and revenue has been significantly reduced.
Currently, the Mercer Island Thrift Shop is open only from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays and sales have been generating about $4,000 a day, according to Bon during her report at the meeting. The donation center at the community center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
COVID restrictions allow 21 shoppers in the store at a time, which is less than half of the amount of customers the shop welcomed inside pre-pandemic, said Bon, adding that the shop — which is bolstered by many volunteers — is looking to expand its hours soon. Jan. 24 was a big day, which featured 262 shoppers and a total of $5,400 from 156 transactions. A line snaked around the building and some customers waited 30 minutes before they made their way inside.
Councilmembers decided not to proceed with option B of the Thrift Shop and Recycling Center Remodel Project as a 2021-2022 Capital Improvement Project. The smaller remodel called for some modest improvements and expansion of the donation processing space at the recycling center by adding a pre-manufactured building at the site.
Jake Jacobson said at the meeting that he received a multitude of emails from residents who don’t want to see the recycling center invade Mercerdale Park. People have echoed those feelings on the city’s Let’s Talk page and during the appearance segment of virtual council meetings.
Fellow councilmember Craig Reynolds added: “One thing we know about Islanders is that they value parks, and we heard on that loud and clear, and that’s consistent with my own values.”
Black History Month
At its Feb. 2 meeting, council proclaimed February as Black History Month on Mercer Island, according to a city press release, to celebrate the many achievements and recognize the contributions made by African Americans to the economic, cultural, spiritual and political development.
“Last spring, the entire nation was consumed with a reckoning over race and the vital equity work yet to be accomplished here and across the country. Locally, we saw plenty of examples of residents of all races and ages taking action in the face of injustice,” said Mayor Benson Wong.
Wong noted the importance of the entire community learning and growing together. The Mercer Island School District has organized activities that highlight Black history and support Black students through discussions about equality, inclusion and racial justice.
“Black History Month is one of many ways to keep that discussion moving forward. It should be a time to celebrate and to hope that cries of racial injustice grow less frequent and less loud in our future,” Wong added.
A council proclamation last summer noted that the city of Mercer Island — which joined many other neighboring cities in rejecting racially-based bias, harassment and hate crimes — will not tolerate discrimination of any kind, following widespread Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, according to the press release.
During Bon’s city manager’s report at the Feb. 2 meeting, she said that Mercer Island had 446 confirmed COVID cases as of Feb. 1, which is up from the 418 cases she noted during her Jan. 17 report.
Bon said the city has been receiving questions about what Mercer Island has been doing to assist in the vaccine rollout.
“Our role is not directly involved in vaccine distribution, although, if an opportunity becomes available, we will certainly engage at that level,” said Bon, noting that the city has offered the community center parking lot to Public Health — Seattle & King County as a potential vaccination site.
As soon as the city receives vaccine information, staff posts it to the city website and issues press releases.
MIYFS Foundation Day
At its recent meeting, council proclaimed Feb. 2 Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Foundation Day, in appreciation of its long-term service to the community and support of the city’s YFS.
In 2020, the foundation contributed more than $600,000 and pledged more than $1 million in 2021 to bridge the gap in the YFS budget resulting from loss of revenues in the 2021-2022 budget.
The 19th Annual MIYFS Foundation Fundraising Breakfast will be held virtually at 7:30 a.m. Feb. 10. To register for the Rise Up! event, visit https://tinyurl.com/yxpqflrz.