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A Note From Your Mayor


May 11

Mayor’s Update - May 11, 2021

Posted on May 11, 2021 at 5:10 PM by Joshua Stecker

Greetings Gig Harbor,

 

I hope this message finds you all happy and healthy. I would like to say Happy Mother’s Day to all those mothers out there. I hope your Sunday, two days ago was good and I hope you were able to share it with your loved ones.

 

As most of you now know, our county returned to Phase Two three weeks ago yet the numbers keep increasing, which is a bad sign for progressing toward re-opening. Last Tuesday, the Governor put a two-week pause on any county moving forward, so we remain in Phase Two for now. Gig Harbor sits at just over 1400 cases to date, Experts are now reporting that the slow adaption rate of the vaccines available mean herd immunity is unlikely, and COVID is something we will likely deal with in the years to come. This puts an extra focus on getting vaccinated – appointments are available locally, and I encourage our citizens over 16 that are eligible to make their appointments.

 

No one has been more important to our long battle with the pandemic than our essential workers. Council and I proclaimed the week of April 26 through May 3 as Essential Workers Appreciation Week to honor these day-to-day heroes. Essential workers include those at grocery stores, in food and agriculture, education, healthcare and public health, law enforcement and public safety, government-based critical functions, our municipal employees, shipping and transportation, housing and real estate, energy and utility services, retail and personal services, and non-profits providing community services.

 

All of these people showed up for work each and every day at heightened personal risk to provide the essential services we all depend on in our everyday lives – in many cases, putting themselves in contact with hundreds of people each day.

 

COVID-19 makes event planning difficult for our community this summer. Because of all the uncertainty around the phases, we just changed some of our requirements for special event permits. Now, if a group wants to plan an event like a graduation, festival or a parade we can refund their fees if public health restrictions force the event to be cancelled. It also lets us allow events on short notice if plans change because of COVID-19. If an indoor graduation gets cancelled we can now approve an outdoor celebration on short notice, if the restrictions allow for it. We are trying to be as flexible as we can to make sure we can have as close to a normal summer as possible.

 

We are still planning to have our Concerts in the Parks and our Movies in the Parks this summer even if we have to spray water soluble paint to have people stay in their areas. But the events will not start until mid-July so hopefully by then we will be in better shape.

 

The big news from our City Council meetings this month – which many of you have been involved with – is that starting in 2022, fireworks will be allowed on the 4th of July only here in the city limits of Gig Harbor. Over 200 citizens weighed in on this issue, with 85% of the responses supported limiting fireworks to just the holiday -- or even banning them completely. Council felt that the one-day limit was a good compromise that allows people to celebrate, but also protects some of our vulnerable population and pets from having a week-long barrage of noise. It will also provide some relief to our fire department and emergency responders. Fireworks sales will continue to be allowed, and you can continue to support our local non-profits that run the stands.

 

We know that this will not stop all fireworks from being set off on other days besides the 4th of July. It will be difficult for our Police to enforce the new law, so we will rely heavily on educating our residents. We also know there are neighboring areas outside of the city limits that this ordinance will not apply to, and noise outside of the city limits may still be disruptive.

 

The change doesn’t happen until 2022, however, which gives us time to start education and outreach. We’ll be working with the Fire District, our local Gig Harbor fireworks stands, and local outreach groups to be sure people know what the new law means.  Right now, the fine for illegally setting off fireworks is $1,000. That’s pretty high and I have encouraged Council to lower this amount so they will be discussing it.

 

Last year, Council set aside $125,000 of our Lodging Tax money to fund special events and tourism expenses for our local non-profits in the year’s budget. Coming into 2021, we still had $50,000 of that amount to award, so we opened up a second round of applications this spring.

 

In April, our Lodging Tax Advisory Committee met and recommend awarding the remaining funds to the following organizations:

  • The Canterwood Ladies Golf Association – hosting the Washington State Women’s Golf Association State Championships
  • The Greater Gig Harbor Foundation Association’s annual Cider Swig
  • The Harbor History Museum’s year-round marketing and 10th Anniversary Celebration – “History Rocks”
  • United by Music North America’s first Make Music Day
  • The Gig Harbor Boat Shop’s docent-led tours
  • The Peninsula Art League’s Open Juried Art Show
  • Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club beautification hosting year-round events
  • The Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team’s new event, The Narrows Challenge

This is a great way for us to be able to help some of the organizations that were hit hardest by COVID-19 and bring in overnight guests to contribute to our local economic recovery, as well as increases in lodging and sales tax revenue.

 

This year Council has started a new policy of requiring staff to give a quarterly “check-in” on all of the objectives in our 2021 Budget. We had our first report in April with a full study session on where things stand right now. We always plan our budget from an optimistic outlook on what we want to get done, however there are always unexpected hurdles along the way. Last year, COVID surprised us and waylaid a lot of our plans – in 2021, yet we are very much on track to accomplish many of our city goals.

 

One of those projects is our newest roundabout on Stinson and Rosedale. If you have not driven it recently please do so. I want to congratulate our city Public Works team on the completion of this intersection, which is now fully open, with some finishing work continuing through the following weeks.

 

On a hiring note, many companies and organizations have struggled a bit with the slow pace of hiring that are facing many industries right now, the City is facing that same hurdle.

 

While the pandemic persists, people are hesitant to move or change jobs with so much uncertainty. We’re also seeing a larger generational shift into retirement. Here at the City we have some really great opportunities open, and I encourage you to take a look.  A few of them are:

…to name a few. I want to applaud our current employees who are doing a great job of keeping us on track, and encourage our qualified citizens to apply, or pass along candidates for these open city positions. 

 

The City received its final 2019 audit report and it came back perfectly clean with zero negative comments. Much credit goes to Finance Director Dave Rodenbach, Senior Accountant Jaci Auclair-Tomlinson and their team in the Finance Department. We routinely pass our audits with flying colors due to their diligence and thoroughness.

 

April 18-24 was Volunteer Appreciation Week in Gig Harbor. At the April 12 Council Meeting we had:

  • Louise Tieman (Parks Commission)
  • Greg Hoeksema (Planning Commission)
  • Brett Marlo-Desantis (Design Review Board)
  • Larry Bleich (Citizens on Patrol)
  • George Pollitt (Community Volunteer)

all share a brief summary of their reasons for volunteering and accept the proclamation on behalf of our community volunteers. Council and I are very grateful all the hard work each and every one of our many volunteers do for the City.

 

We have also had several donations recently that I want to recognize. The Rotary Club donated a fourth musical instrument at Shaw Park called “Contrabass Chimes.”  Gloria Riley donated a Memorial Bench at Skansie Brothers Park.  Two more donations are in the works: benches at Wilkinson Farm Park and a water dispenser near the baseball fields at City Park at Crescent Creek, which is fully operational but currently not in service due to COVID.

 

Last night at our council meeting we passed the Sports Complex Lease Agreement with the YMCA. This has been something council, staff and myself have worked on with the YMCA for three years. We are so excited to partner with the Y and work towards getting these fields built for our community. The Y is scheduled to sign it as well this week. The YMCA will pay the cost of construction of the new fields and will run the programs there. The City will construct the playground, bocce ball courts, restrooms and lawn adjacent to the ball fields. The YMCA is planning to have the construction underway by the end of 2024.

 

The human-powered watercraft floats at Ancich Waterfront Park are on schedule to be completed this year. The biggest user group will be the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team. The team had committed to raising $500,000 to fund the floats, but by using an existing pier the City was able to save a considerable amount and save the team some money. Council has agreed to ask the team for $100,000 toward the project and in exchange the team will have its lease of part of the kayak storage building extended until 2026. The racing team is an important part of our culture and we are excited to have them using this new park.

 

Lastly, Bob Larson, our City Administrator announced to staff and Council Thursday that he is retiring from city management in mid-July. The City of Gig Harbor recognizes his decision to retire. I appreciate that he shared his thoughts in a way that was kind enough to give us a bit more time than was written in his contract to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Though we only were able to have his leadership for a short time he was beneficial in so many ways. His caring attitude and skills were very helpful in guiding us, as well as weathering a pandemic through his whole time here.

 

Bob and I have discussed various qualified and experienced individuals who could be the interim City Administrator. We will be working to complete this transition, conducting interviews with council and staff. We should have someone onboard prior to his departure.

 

Gig Harbor is in good shape financially and our City services continue to be performed to what our citizens count on and appreciate. On behalf of the City we thank Bob for all that he has done here and wish the best for Bob and his family.

 

We have had a good taste of sunshine lately, which is hopefully a sign of good times to come for us this summer. As always, be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.

 

Cheers,

 

Kit

 

 

 

 

Apr 09

Mayor's Update: Federal Funding for Transportation Infrastructure Projects - Friday, April 9

Posted on April 9, 2021 at 2:07 PM by Joshua Stecker

Neighbors, friends, and business owners - four crucial transportation infrastructure projects are looming for the City of Gig Harbor and are in line for federal funding under the 2022 Community Project Funding Program.

The Burnham Drive / SR 16 and Wagner / Wollochet projects potentially impact access and safety for our growing community.

To show your support, you can download the templates for letters of support and sign and return to the City for inclusion in the project's support statement. These letters will be reviewed by Congressman Derek Kilmer's office.

You can scan and email your signed support letters to communications@gigharborwa.gov; or fax to 253-851-8563. Letters received before Friday, April 16, 2021 will be included in the City's submission.

Please direct any questions to communications@gigharborwa.gov.

About the Burnham Drive/SR16 Roundabout Metering Project 
This project provides critical transportation improvements for residential and commercial developments, including our regional hospital, St. Anthony's. The roundabout helps to manage future traffic, which is anticipated to reach maximum capacity and traffic volume soon. This project will also help to avoid more costly and disruptive future interchange improvements.

Without this project, congestion will occur from the higher level of traffic, and there is an increased chance of high-speed rear-end collisions for drivers slowing down from the westbound SR16 off-ramp to accommodate stopped traffic and congestion. This project will install an automated but complex traffic management system that has been shown to reduce congestion and improve safety.

SR 16 is one of the major freight corridors in Washington State as well as the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula for commuters and travelers, with a direct connection to Interstate-5. A 2019 corridor study by WSDOT and the Federal Highway Administration made almost 80 improvement recommendations for this stretch. Final design, permitting and construction would happen in 2022.

Download Burnham Drive/SR16 Roundabout Metering Project Support Letter
 
About the Wagner Way/Wollochet Drive Intersection Improvements
With Gig Harbor's significant growth, the last ten years have seen a 59% increase in single-family homes across the entire city, with a good of that growth occurring within a ½ mile of this intersection.

The current intersection doesn't allow for pedestrians or bikers to cross this busy arterial roadway. All of this residential and commercial growth uses this intersection in order to gain access to and from SR-16 and downtown Gig Harbor.

This project would install a traffic signal, pedestrian crossing signal, ADA improvements, street lighting, stormwater treatment, and detention improvements, and connect the new signals to WSDOT's signals at the SR16 intersection and the City’s existing signal at the intersection of Wollochet / Hunt.

This would improve safety, reduce congestion, and improve comfort for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others between these rapidly developing residential and commercial areas and SR-16, downtown, and the Gig Harbor waterfront. Final design, permitting, property acquisition, and construction would happen in 2022.

Download Wagner Way/Wollochet Drive Intersection Improvements Support Letter

About the Gig Harbor 38th Avenue Improvement Project, Phase 2
This project has been listed on the City’s transportation improvement program (TIP) for many years. We are seeking funding under the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) Member Designated Project program.

Currently, residents ride bicycles or walk on narrow dirt paths along the busy 38th Avenue arterial. Residents have been asking for decades to improve safety along this corridor by placing bicycle lanes and sidewalks to connect a residential area to the large commercial area to the east and two public schools to the south. The City is currently improving this corridor to the south up to the two public schools as part of the 38th Avenue Improvement Project, Phase 1A.

Phase 2 would redesign the roadway to add bicycle lanes on both sides, sidewalks on one side, a landscaped buffer next to the sidewalk, curbs, and gutters as necessary, sewer and storm improvements, street illumination, on-street parking where room exists, and turn pockets, as necessary. This is primarily along 56th Street to Hunt Street. This work will use low-impact design for stormwater management to treat stormwater and minimize stormwater runoff.

The project goals are to improve safety and level of comfort for all ages to use non-motorized transportation between the residential areas, commercial areas, and two public schools, and improve walkability and bike-ability in this area.

Download 38th Avenue Improvement Project Phase 2 Support Letter

About the Burnham Drive Improvement Project
Currently, Gig Harbor residents ride bicycles or walk along narrow dirt paths on Burnham Drive, a busy arterial connecting a major residential and commercial district (including a public middle school) to the City’s primary recreational trail that runs through the city, and a highway interchange (SR16).

Through City planning, opportunities have been identified for major improvements to improve non-motorized transportation on this corridor.

The City is currently in the design and permitting process to install a small sub-section of this plan (Phase 1A). This project would occur in 2022 and include a concrete multi-use path for both pedestrians and bicyclists on one side, a landscaped buffer next to the path, curbs, gutters, sewer and storm improvements, street illumination, on-street parking (where room exists), and turn pockets as necessary -- focused on the portion of the road from N. Harborview Drive to Harbor Hill Drive. This work will use low-impact design for stormwater management to treat stormwater and minimize stormwater runoff.

Download Burnham Drive Improvement Project Support Letter

Thanks for your support,

Mayor Kit Kuhn

Mar 24

Mayor’s Update - March 24, 2021

Posted on March 24, 2021 at 1:48 PM by Joshua Stecker

To: The Community of Gig Harbor, a THANK YOU, and some thoughts
 
Being Mayor of Gig Harbor has been an honor and privilege. I care deeply about my hometown. Thank you for electing me and trusting me. I have worked diligently and tirelessly to represent all citizens and the community, from those who more forcefully made their opinions known to those who quietly shared their thoughts. I have sought to retain the spirit, and flavor of our wonderful town as it matures.  Maintaining our heritage and consistent community support through a period of rapid growth, development, and very challenging times has not been easy. I have given my best efforts to represent and be accountable to the 73% majority who elected me and have always given consideration to all who provided input.

Growth is inevitable, and my administration has handled it responsibly.

As a Mayor I provided a Vision with goals and objectives that have improved our city. We have accomplished much including:

  1. Saved the City over $100,000 by serving as the Mayor and City Administrator for 12 months until we found the right City Administrator.
  2. Preserved a 100-year-old forest, at the entrance of our bay. Destined to be clear-cut within six months in office.  Soundview Forest, is now a park preserved forever.
  3. Secured our Court of Law; was in jeopardy of being turned over to Pierce County.
  4. Merged the Planning and Building departments which helped streamline our development process, creating better communication while being solution oriented.
  5. Raised millions in funds, with impact fees and sales tax (with voter approval) to pay for critical road infrastructure our city needs.
  6. Changed our city codes so a developer can’t deviate from the regulations by giving land or money in exchange for bypassing our codes.
  7. Collected on past debts, restructured debt and saving over 1 million dollars each year for emergencies; also received new financial grants.
  8. Freed up public parking downtown that had been encroached on for 15 years
  9. Revised codes to protect our character of life, including regulations on critical wetlands, buffers and clearcutting.
  10. Created a system where employees can be fairly promoted. This improved upon a complicated and subjective system that was leading to a financial disaster for our city.
  11. Implemented written employee policies to replace non written policies that had positioned the city to be at risk and were growing out of control.
  12. Removed the East Bay from our UGA to protect it as rural and keep it from exploitation.
  13. Revamped our Tourism Department and created a grant program to give $125,000. each year to nonprofits for tourism related events.
  14. Improved parks including new parks. Continued building sidewalks and cross walk projects around town.
  15. Secured $100,000 from the Boys and Girls Club earmarked for a Senior Center.
  16. Completed 2.5 million site prep for a new Public Works shop that will be completed by 2022.
  17. Recognized Ancestral Homelands of the Puyallup tribe including naming of an Estuary area and creating educational signage.
  18. Worked with Pierce County Mayors to write the foundation for an interlocal Agreement to create steps for Attainable/ Affordable Housing.
  19. Forgave $588,000. of utility income in 2020 due to the crisis, to help everyone that had a water and sewer bill; first time this has ever been done.
  20. Worked with local, state and federal governments to protect our City and Citizens through an unpresented pandemic, including distribution of funds, forgiveness of loans and assistance to business and citizens.

Not everything we wanted or needed has been accomplished but the city is in a better place. Despite the many successes, challenges lie ahead. We must be cognizant of these challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  1. Growth. This will continue to be a blessing and a threat.  It is imperative to carefully help elected officials know what we the citizens want in our community for growth that is proper and sustainable. Our easily accessible land has greatly diminished. The pressure to build taller or pave critical areas will be strong. Our rural county area is growing all around us with implications to our city and is being challenged each year by the state and county such as “PSRC, PCRC, and GMA “with allowances that could also burden our city.
  2. Special interests groups have access to your governing body. You as citizens must be aware of potential future special arrangements between them and specific members of City Council and Mayor’s office that may not benefit the majority of citizens. Those special group interests create millions of dollars in costs where the greater community might find more benefit in projects that help more than a handful of people. There is only so much money to go around.
  3. The city is financially in good shape. Beware of burdensome costs that can easily become reality through too many capital projects and escalating costs with employee wages and benefits that can bury a city in debt. and I am concerned with this in the future, so the citizens will need to keep and eye on it. We cannot afford to give everything to everybody.

A city’s work is never done. There is so much to accomplish and we all must contribute to be successful. It will be up to others to move the city forward, as I have decided not to seek reelection for the Mayor’s position. I will continue to work diligently as Mayor until my term is up in January.

It is best for the community if many fellow citizens choose to run for Mayor and council. The more citizens that participate in government, the better. It is my belief that a strong Mayor form of government who represent the people is best for our town.

Thank you, Gig Harbor, for the opportunity to represent you the people as your City Mayor.

Mayor Kit Kuhn