Q&A of the Day
The City publishes Q&A’s to help answer current community questions.
Send your Q&A of the Day suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Is the City renegotiating the City’s Settlement Agreement with Sound Transit to allow more
buses on the Island? (5/24/2019)
Q&A OF THE DAY -- Settlement Agreement with Sound Transit
Q: Is the City renegotiating the City’s Settlement Agreement with Sound Transit to allow more buses on the Island?
A: No. The City is not renegotiating the Settlement Agreement with Sound Transit, and there will be no more buses than there are today. In fact, the number of buses will decrease.
The City and Sound Transit approved a Settlement Agreement in 2017 to help offset the impacts of the East Link light rail project and partially compensate for permanent impacts to local traffic patterns.
Key tenets of the Settlement Agreement include:
- A roundabout at N Mercer Way & 77th Ave – the “77th Ave. SE Configuration,”
- No substantial bus operations/layovers along 80th Ave,
- Future bus volumes less than existing bus volumes,
- No routing of regional buses through the Town Center,
- Limited occurrences of long bus layovers, and
- No bus idling.
As part of the Agreement, the City has been working with Sound Transit and King County Metro to implement a required “77th Ave SE Configuration” to allow buses coming from the Eastside to exchange passengers with light rail trains. The 77th Ave SE Configuration continues to use North Mercer Way, rather than Sound Transit’s preferred 80th Avenue SE Configuration, which would have routed buses through Town Center.
The Agreement was finalized without Metro at the table; however, it directed the City and Sound Transit to work collaboratively with Metro to obtain its agreement on the 77th Ave SE Configuration.
Subsequently, Sound Transit commissioned the Mercer Island Transit Interchange Operational and Configuration Study to evaluate three potential transit service interchange configurations. According to Metro, in order for the 77th Avenue SE Configuration to work, only two of the three configurations meet Metro’s operational needs: the improved and optimal service configurations. These two service configurations continue to meet the key tenets of the Agreement noted above.
With these two configurations, bus volumes will decrease along North Mercer Way. Today there are 30-36 buses per peak hour serving Mercer Island from off-island locations, that number will drop to no more than 20 buses per hour when Link Light Rail opens in 2023.
To ensure that this would be safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders, the City’s on-call traffic engineering firm, KPG, reviewed the Study and found no inaccuracies in its findings. In addition, KPG noted that more buses using the interchange is associated with fewer passenger vehicles coming to Mercer Island to use the Park & Ride. Moreover, KPG stated that there are no safety issues with the proposed roundabout at 77th Avenue SE or proposed bus layover space on North Mercer Way, and that minor improvements could be implemented to make the area even safer.
The City has put together a project page on Let’s Talk, complete with a photo map, FAQs, the full Transit Interchange Study, and more. Please visit https://letstalk.mercergov.org/Transit-Interchange for more information and to ask questions about the Transit Interchange.
To read the Settlement Agreement visit: http://www.mercergov.org/files/Final_ST_SettlementAgreement_2Nov2017_Web.pdf
To read the Mercer Island Transit Interchange Operational and Configuration Study visit:
Posted May 24, 2019
Q&A OF THE DAY -- How is Herbicide Used by the City?
How does the City decide where to spray herbicide?
As part of a larger Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy, non-chemical methods are prioritized in City operations, and chemicals are only used where necessary and then in concert with other weed control strategies. The City limits herbicide usage to the control of noxious weeds and in landscape maintenance situations that would otherwise overwhelm available labor resources. City staff continually explore ways to reduce herbicide usage further. As a result, the City and its contractors use a very small amount of herbicide annually – herbicides are generally used in much greater quantities by Island homeowners for weed control on private property.
Does the City spray blackberries?
The City does NOT apply Roundup or any other pesticides to blackberries that are allowed to flower or fruit.
In the rare instance that the City needs to control blackberries with herbicide, staff first ensure that all flowering/fruiting stems are cut off and removed from the site so that they cannot be harvested by berry-pickers. In most instances that warrant herbicide use, the blackberry canes are cut to the ground and only the freshly cut stem is treated with herbicide.
Does the City use Roundup with POEA?
No. When the use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) is the best fit for the target species, the City uses an aquatic formulation of glyphosate that contains no surfactants. A surfactant is a chemical additive to herbicides that helps the herbicide stick to the leaves, which increases a plant’s uptake. POEA (polyethoxylated tallow amine) is a surfactant known to be harmful to aquatic organisms, including amphibians, at high concentrations. For this reason, the City has elected to eliminate the use of POEA. In many cases, the City adds an aquatic-approved surfactant to their treatments to ensure the treatments have maximum efficacy.
Is the City required to obtains permits to apply herbicides?
Yes, but only in certain circumstances. In order to apply herbicides near or on open water, the City must apply for a NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit each year through the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE). The NPDES pesticide permitting program regulates discharges from pesticide applications consistent with Section 402 of the Clean Water Act.
This permit application requires a plan that specifies the body of water, plant species, and type of aquatic-approved herbicide that will be used. The City is required to adhere to the permit requirements including but not limited to application practices, on-site posting requirements, reporting, and record keeping. To learn more about the Aquatic Noxious Weed Control General Permit, go to: https://ecology.wa.gov/Regulations-Permits/Permits-certifications/Aquatic-pesticide-permits/Aquatic-noxious-weed-control
Do people who apply herbicides on public land need to have any certifications?
Yes. Any staff member who applies restricted-use pesticides or uses power equipment to apply pesticides on public land is required by state law to be a Certified Public Operator. Mercer Island staff are certified through the Washington State Department of Agriculture and required to complete continuing education training through organizations such as the King County Noxious Weed Program and the Washington State Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management Program. Pesticide certification ensures that staff follow best management practices for proper use and handling of herbicides, ensuring safety of the applicator and the public, and minimizing risk or exposure to off-target species. Currently, eighteen City staff members are licensed by the state.
How does the public know when and where herbicides have been applied?
All herbicide applicators are required to follow regulations for notification on the herbicide label. The City posts signage at entrances to each treated area that includes the date, time, and chemicals applied for at least 24 hours following the application.
Are there any parks that have specific limitations on pesticide use?
Yes. The Open Space Conservancy Trust has adopted the Pioneer Park Herbicide Use Protocol, which can be found at www.mercergov.org/PioneerPark
Posted February 28, 2019
Q&A OF THE DAY -- Understanding Marine Patrol
Q: Why does the City provide Marine Patrol Services and what does it cost?
A: The City’s Marine Patrol program consists of two full time Police staff, two primary boats, and one back-up boat; additionally, 18 patrol officers are cross-trained in the boats’ operation, which allows for year-round 24/7 emergency response.
The program costs about $540,000/year to operate, but vessel registration fees, an agreement with Renton, along with WA State grants, lower that amount to approximately $329,000/year.
The City of Renton pays a fee to Mercer Island for services, while the City of Bellevue pays for the service via an ‘exchange of services’ agreement. In exchange for Mercer Island’s Marine Patrol services, Bellevue provides MI with specialized police support such as: K-9 units, forensics, firing range, major investigations, and SWAT.
MI also receives preferential fire/EMS mutual aid assistance from Bellevue; this is particularly notable because it means MI doesn’t have to purchase a ladder truck (valued at $1.2 million) and hire 15 more firefighters to staff it (5 per shift x 3 shifts). When a ladder truck is required on the island, the City calls on Bellevue’s resources without being directly charged. The City believes this single benefit alone makes the financial case for Marine Patrol, compared to the alternative.
Many residents may not realize that Marine Patrol covers much more than BUI enforcement at Seafair. It includes investigations of marine-related collisions/crimes, training boat operators, providing safety/drowning prevention classes, maintaining the regulatory buoy system, providing response to environmental incidents, hazard mitigation and debris management, conducting search and rescue/dive operations, enforcing boating laws, and more importantly, providing critical life-safety support.
The program frequently provides aid to a wide range of users, not just operators of motorized craft. In December 2017, Marine Patrol was able to locate an overturned kayak in choppy 2-3 foot waves, 400 yards offshore, at night. When rescued, the paddler was hypothermic and unresponsive with a core body temperature of only 86 degrees. Following transport to hospital for treatment, he was released unharmed the following day. In September 2018, Marine Patrol responded to another on-water incident near Seward Park: a dog mistakenly swam 200 yards away from shore into open water, compelling his owner to swim out in pursuit. Other incidents of note from 2018 include responses to a seaplane crash, as well as a fully-engulfed boat fire.
While it’s possible that a majority of residents have never come in direct contact with Marine Patrol, this program stands ready to assist at any time with a wide range of valuable safety, educational, and community services.
More info on marine patrol: www.mercergov.org/MarinePatrol
Posted: January 22, 2019
Q&A OF THE DAY – WMW Mural
Q: Tell us more about the Mural project: How was it funded? How was the artist selected?
A: The City commissioned local artist Rachel Holloway to design and paint a mural on an outdoor wall located on West Mercer Way, facing the exit 6 off ramp on Mercer Island, WA. The mural’s intent is meant to be a warm welcome to those visiting or returning home, by beautifying the main wall they see as they exit onto the island.
The project was funded by the City's 1% for Art in Public Places Fund (Municipal Code 4.40.200), which consists of funds set aside from qualifying capital improvement projects (CIP) to support public art acquisitions. The 1% for the Art in Public Places Fund is accounted for separately from the General Fund. Learn more about the Fund, follow the link at the end of this post. The approved expenditure of $29,000 specified that all aspects of the project had to fit within the budget. This included mural design, all materials, priming the wall, and execution of the mural.
The City received 28 project submissions from the Call for Artists. As part of the application process, artists were asked to submit a draft of their proposed design with their application packet. The Arts Council’s artist selection committee convened, and using the Arts Council guidelines adopted in 1992, selected the mural design by Mercer Island artist Rachel Holloway.
About 1% For the Arts
The 1% for Public Art program specifies that 1% of City capital improvement project (CIP) costs (excluding Utility projects) are set aside and dedicated to the commission, purchase, and installation of public artworks in a variety of settings in the City. The 1% for Public Art program was adopted in 1985, and much of the City’s public art collection has been acquired via this fund. Other public art commissions and acquisitions made possible by the 1% for Public Art program funding include: the new street banners in Town Center (2018), the mosaic murals at Luther Burbank Park playground (2016), and the popular dragon play structure at Deane’s Children’s Park (2013).
MICC 3.55.040 states that the Arts Council shall recommend projects to the City Council, using appropriations from qualifying capital improvements projects that are pooled into the 1% for Art in Public Places Fund. MICC 4.40.200(F) notes that the funds shall be used for:
1. Selection, acquisition and installation or display of original works of visual art which may be an integral part of the project, or be placed in, on or about the project or in another public facility; and
2. Repairs and maintenance of public art acquired with 1%-for-the-arts funds; and
3. Other project-specific expenses of selection and acquisition; provided, that no part of the funds shall be used to pay administrative staffing expenses of the program.
For more information on the mural project, visit www.mercergov.org/publicart or the project fact sheet http://www.mercergov.org/files/FAQs_DarwinsDream_by_RachelHolloway.pdf.
For information about the Arts Council, visit www.mercergov.org/artscouncil
For information on the 1% for the Arts, visit https://www.codepublishing.com/WA/MercerIsland/#!/MercerIsland04/MercerIsland0440
Posted: October 18, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY –The Difference Between Request for Qualifications and Request for Proposals
Q: What is involved in the RFQ process for a proposed Commuter Parking and Mixed-Use Facility in Town Center?
A: In early September, the City of Mercer Island issued a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) seeking innovative and capable property developers to design and build a development consisting of a City-owned commuter parking facility, and a mixed-use residential/commercial structure at the site of the old Tully’s Coffee store.
An RFQ process is a way of identifying developers who are capable of constructing a project, meaning they have the technical skills, suitable funding, positive references, and relevant experience. In other words, they have the necessary track record (the Qualifications). The nine proposals the City has received do NOT include specific details, exact designs, or pricing – instead, simply general concepts that might be included in the project. If the City had issued a Request for Proposals (RFP), actual designs, costs, and construction timelines would have been included.
A benefit of using the RFQ process is that it allows plenty of time for community input on what features a “winning” design should include. A slate of 4 or 5 semi-finalists will be invited to a community meeting on October 22 (6:30-8:30pm at the Community Center), and interested residents are invited to come meet these firms and ask questions.
On Thursday, November 15, the City Council is scheduled to select the top firm and begin negotiating a legal agreement. After that, the developer begins the true design process, and the community will be asked to weigh in over many months on the specific features, design elements, and overall aesthetics of the project.
You can follow the progress of this project at the webpage: www.mercergov.org/TC_MixedUse
Posted: October 12, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY – MIPD Success Stories
A: This post is a follow-up to our August 31 post that explored current crime statistics and offered a variety of links for more information. We mentioned that we would soon offer additional information on recent MIPD successes, and a date for the next “Coffee With A Cop” community meeting.
From an August case report, as described by the MIPD:
<A “guest” that was living at a residence under false pretenses stole jewelry, electronics and a vehicle from his host family; some of these items he pawned. During his crime spree, he attempted to enter another Mercer Island home which was captured on a surveillance system. The homeowner posted his observations to social media. Someone viewed his posting, notified police, and through some digging, detectives were able to contact this second victim directly. These cases, and an additional commercial burglary, were quickly put together and the suspect identified. The suspect was arrested shortly after the commercial burglary; the subsequent interview by Detectives lead to a full confession and the original victim’s vehicle being recovered. Multiple felony charges were referred to the King County Prosecutors Office. In addition to those charges, MIPD Detectives were also able to assist the City of Renton in filing Rape charges against the same suspect stemming from an incident in July. As we continue to investigate this suspect, we have identified additional crimes. Great work by MIPD Patrol and Detectives.>
Finally, the next “Coffee With A Cop” informal meet-up is now scheduled for Weds, October 3, at the Southend Starbucks, 8415 SE 68th St, from 4pm to 6pm.
Posted: September 27, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY – Current Crime Rates
Q: Is there a rise in crime currently? What are the latest crime statistics for Mercer Island and what is MIPD doing to fight crime?
A: Overall, the MIPD is actually seeing a general decline in numbers for many crime categories on the Island. To help residents assess the statistics for themselves, we have made current stats more easily viewed on a new MIPD webpage: www.mercergov.org/CrimeStats. In comparing the Year-To-Date (YTD) numbers for this time in 2018 vs. 2017, we see total “Calls For Service” down from 9042 to 8301. Meanwhile total YTD “Serious Offenses” for this time in 2018 vs. 2017 are down from 442 to 337. These numbers do not include a crime spree in August by one individual (now apprehended) believed to responsible for several burglaries and other offenses; August data will be compiled in a few days.
The City’s most recent citizen survey, conducted by mail using a third-party vendor and randomly selected participants (711 total) revealed that:
95% of residents are very satisfied/satisfied with their overall feeling of safety
85% of residents are very satisfied/satisfied with visibility of police in the community
84% of residents are very satisfied/satisfied with police services
We are also working on a short summary of current MIPD crime-fighting activities, including some recent successes that some residents may not be aware of – this information should be available late next week. In the meantime, residents wishing to explore criminal activity geographically are directed to our partner: www.crimemapping.com.
The MIPD continues to actively support a number of effective crime prevention programs and always welcomes additional participation; please see: www.mercergov.org/CrimePrevention. The next event in our ongoing “Coffee With A Cop” series is currently being scheduled and will provide a good opportunity to talk directly with the Police Dept about your concerns.
Posted: August 31, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY – Fireworks
Q: What are the rules and regulations for fireworks in Mercer Island? Has the City Council considered banning fireworks?
A: Legal fireworks are allowed in Mercer Island on July 4 only, between 11:00am – 11:00pm. Fireworks are prohibited in all parks and school district properties (MICC 9.30.070 and MIDS Policy #5114). A list of legal fireworks can be found on the City’s fireworks information page.
An early draft of the 2018-19 Council Goals and Work Plan included a fireworks ban, but it did not make the final version. Visit the Council’s Goals and Work Plan webpage for information on this year’s priorities and goals.
For safety tips, instructions on safe disposal, and a list of legal and illegal fireworks visit the Fireworks Safety page.
Posted: July 3, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY – Construction on SE 40th Street
Q: What’s going on with the construction on SE 40th Street? Were residents notified?
A: On June 18, the City began making improvements to SE 40th Street from Island Crest Way (ICW) to Gallagher Hill Road. The project will construct concrete curbs, sidewalks, and bicycle lanes on both sides of the roadway. The project is part of the City's current 6-Year Transportation Improvement Plan and is being partially funded through a grant from the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board.
Work will be between 7:00am-5:00pm, Monday-Friday, with the goal of having SE 40th Street from ICW to 88th Avenue substantially completed before school begins in September; no weekend work is currently planned. Flaggers will maintain one open lane of traffic at all times. Outside of working hours the roadway will be open to two lanes of traffic.
A letter of notification was mailed to residents on June 11. Information can also be found in the June 20 edition of the MI Weekly. The press release can be found on the City’s website: www.mercergov.org/News.asp?NewsID=2316.
Contact Clint Morris, City Street Engineer, with any questions at email@example.com.
Posted: June 26, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY – Homelessness on Mercer Island
Q: What’s going on with all this talk about homeless camps on Mercer Island?
A: There is no doubt that the Puget Sound region is experiencing a significant increase in homelessness activity. Mercer Island, however, has not encountered this issue on the same scale. City staff have inspected the sites being discussed by the community and believe that these sites are not indicative of a rise in homelessness activity on the Island.
WEST MERCER WAY OFF-RAMP: The plywood structure and building materials on the West Mercer Way off ramp are located on WSDOT right-of-way. Mercer Island Police (MIPD) reported that it does not appear to have been inhabited in the last year. They have coordinated with WSDOT and Parks Maintenance staff for its removal. WSDOT will be removing the structure on Monday, June 25.
MERCERDALE PARK: The Parks & Recreation Department received a call on Saturday (June 16) afternoon about campfire remnants and hypodermic needles on the hillside at Mercerdale Park. A Police Sergeant dispatched to the site found debris that looked to have been there for a few months. He advised the Parks Maintenance Team of the location and nature of the site, who have conducted a sweep of the area. While this area of Mercerdale has been a hotspot for activity, Parks Maintenance staff have made considerable efforts to mitigate illegal activity by (1) inhibiting foot traffic in the area by blocking the social trail with large pieces of wood and brush, replanting trees and shrubs, and posting signage, and (2) periodically monitoring the hillside to evaluate if it’s being actively used. Once alerted to an issue such as this, staff take immediate measures to remove all garbage and furniture, and begin regular sweeps of the area to dissuade future use. In the rare cases where one appears to be an active camp or host to illegal activities, staff immediately refer the matter to the MIPD.
The situations staff have been alerted to regarding camps are (1) a deserted structure and (2) a “party camp,” not homeless encampments. The City has not observed a growing problem with homeless encampments in Mercer Island. This year’s activity level is consistent with past years. The City is, nevertheless, committed to addressing the problem of homelessness as a City and a regional partner. The safety and security of our residents is one of our top priorities.
When the Police and Parks departments are made aware of encampments, be it a party camp or homeless campsite, they respond quickly to handle the situation. Parks staff work diligently to keep Mercer Island parks safe and clean, but hidden gathering areas in our open spaces can be difficult to detect – so staff are grateful to park users for alerting the team to any such issues. On the rare occasion that encampments are located on City owned property, MIPD will post notice of the violation (illegal camping) and allow the occupants time to remove personal property. After the specified time, the tent/property and other items left behind are removed from the location. MIPD temporarily stores any items deemed to be personal property in case they are claimed. For encampments on properties owned by other jurisdictions, such as WSDOT, police and parks staff will coordinate the removal of the encampment with that agency.
The City encourages residents to report non-emergency incidents through the 24-hour dispatch center at 425-577-5656 or submit a crime tip through our online form. Residents can also get involved in crime prevention by partnering with MIPD’s Neighborhood Watch program. Visit the City’s crime prevention page for more information or contact Officer Jennifer Franklin to get involved.
Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) offers resources and programs to address drug and alcohol use by youth. The department provides a broad range of multigenerational human and community services that support the wellness and human service needs of all Mercer Islanders. If you are interested in learning more about the services and programs of MIYFS, visit the Youth and Family Services page.
The City is also a member of ARCH (A Regional Coalition of Housing), which is a partnership of King County and East King County Cities who have joined together to assist with preserving and increasing the supply of housing for low– and moderate-income households in the region. More information is available at www.archhousing.org.
Posted: June 20, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY – Dead Trees along I-90 barrier wall
Q: Is the City aware of all of the dead trees along the north wall of I-90 from Shorewood Drive to Aubrey Davis Park?
A: The City is aware of these trees and have been keeping an eye on them. They were planted close the concrete barrier over 30 years ago and some are not faring as well as others have. They will be removed later in the summer and early fall when regular park maintenance slows down and more staff can be dedicated to the project.
Posted: June 19, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY
Q: Why are construction vehicles parked in the lots under I-90 at Aubrey Davis Park (facing Seattle) and at the Boat Launch (facing Bellevue)?
A: The City of Mercer Island has an agreement with Sound Transit to allow their light rail contractors working on the light rail project to park in these parking lots during construction. However, the stalls on the north end of the parking lot at Aubrey Davis Park (facing Seattle) and 44 stalls at the front of Boat Launch (facing Bellevue) should be open and available for the public. City staff have spoken with the general contractor and Sound Transit staff to reinforce the agreement. City staff will also monitor the area from time to time to ensure compliance.
Posted: June 15, 2018
Q&A OF THE DAY
Q: Is the police department (MIPD) aware of the camp on the West Mercer off-ramp? If a homeless camp is identified in one of our parks, what are the protocols for handling this?
A: Yes, MIPD is aware of the camp in the park by the West Mercer off-ramp. Since the tent is located on WSDOT right-of-way, MIPD is coordinating with WSDOT and Parks Maintenance staff for its removal. WSDOT advised that they are going to remove the camp next week.
These are the procedures for removing homeless camps in MI parks: MIPD will post notice of the violation (illegal camping) and allow the occupants time to remove personal property. After the specified time, the tent/property and other items left behind are removed from the location. MIPD temporarily stores any items deemed to be personal property in case they are claimed.
Posted: June 15, 2018