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A Note From Your Mayor


Sep 17

Mayor's Update - September 16, 2021

Posted on September 17, 2021 at 10:04 AM by Joshua Stecker

It has come to our attention that our city website’s blog platform is not able to recognize and correctly display the characters used in the Twulshootseed and Lushootseed Languages. The misspellings in my previous blog post are unintentional and, unfortunately, unavoidable.

 

This underscores the need for our efforts to help the Puyallup Tribe bring awareness and recognition to their language. Will we do our due diligence to make sure this is fixed on our website.

 

Good Day Gig Harbor,

 

With school back in session and the return of a little bit of rain, fall is here in Gig Harbor. Personally, I love the changing leaves and feel of fall in the air here in our city this time of year. I know many parents have their children returning to school now. We are happy for them. Many of our youth have not seen their fellow classmates for one to two years which has to be extremely hard for them, and they will need added care and love to get through this tough time.  

 

With the rise of the Delta variant, the COVID case rate is at the second highest it has ever been, at 667 cases per 100,000 in Pierce County. Further state directives on restrictions for large gatherings, we know several organizations throughout town have had to make hard calls on cancelling events – and that includes the City. We were sad to miss out on Summer Sounds concerts from The Paperboys and Nate Botsford, and our showing of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for our Movies in the Park series. Both will be back next summer when we’re able to safely gather again.

 

Our Civic Center is open. We are not requiring our front desk staff to ask citizens proof of vaccination, but masks are required and available at the front door if you do not have one. If you cannot or choose not to wear a mask, we cannot serve you in person, and encourage you to interact via phone or our website for city services. 

 

I again urge you to get vaccinated if you have not been yet. Cases that reach the hospital are mostly people who have not received the vaccine. Even if vaccinated, you’ll need to wear a mask in public indoor settings, and outside when you cannot socially distance. 

 

So far, over 940,000 doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 450,000 are fully vaccinated, a rise of about 40,000 more fully vaccinated people than when we last reported a month ago. That means 49% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and 56% are partially vaccinated. Yet those numbers may be higher, as some people have been vaccinated in other cities or states that may not be included in that final number. You can see Gig Harbor’s specific metrics at www.tpchd.org. Please be a good example for our youth as they look to you for guidance. 

 

City projects are in high gear, we are working to accomplish many before the weather changes. New RFIB (rapid flashing beacons) have been installed at the Gig Harbor North crosswalks to make pedestrian safety a priority, especially with the new Swift Water Elementary welcoming students nearby. I hear hundreds of students and parents are using the crosswalks, which means fewer cars and congestion on the roads. 

Our utility relocation project at Stinson and Harborview began on August 23 and included a one-way street closure. From September 7-11, Harborview was closed from Stinson to North Harborview to repair and relocate the existing damaged sewer main before it fails, as well as relocating the water main and storm sewer lines. This sewer main serves 40% of Gig Harbor, and if it failed, it could have resulted in raw sewage entering the bay. 

Time was of the essence, especially as this project was weather-dependent and needed to have this important piece happen quickly. We know it was an imposition – and that traffic on the planned detours went extremely slowly due to a multi-car pileup on SR 16. We couldn’t have planned for the accident on 16, but we did approve an extension on the time the contractor could work (outside of the noise ordinance hours) in order to complete this project as soon as possible. Harborview between Stinson and N. Harborview will have a one-way closure through November 1, please plan accordingly. Work will pause until March 1, 2022, when the roundabout installation will take place to massively upgrade the safety of that intersection. We thank you for your patience while we complete this crucial project. 

In other traffic news, at the City Council meeting on August 9, City Engineer Trent Ward reported on the City’s speed survey on Harborview Drive near Stinson (before the construction project). The study found that 85% of traffic traveled at less than 23 miles per hour. We appreciate the focus on safety on the roads from the large majority of Harborites. Councilmembers were invited to submit other locations to conduct speed surveys, too. 

Many years ago, a Civic Center Debt reserve fund was created to help pay down the debt on our building. This fund had grown to over a million and we all feel now is the time to pay part of the $2,645,000 debt and rework the financing to a lower percentage. Our old finance charge was 4.5 percent. On September 13th, council agreed and approved this. Our new debt is 1.1 million with a new interest rate of .65 percent. This saves our general fund $365,000 per year. Or new debt will cost $230,000 per year and in 2026 the balance will be paid off.

 

In other news, the City and OPG, the developer of the Harbor Hill site, have reached a satisfactory conclusion, and the OPG lawsuit has been dismissed. We look forward to the development of a grocery store and shopping center at the site. The grocery store is set to come first, or at the same time as the other stores at that location.

 

Also on September 13, our Public Works Director, Jeff Langhelm, reported that the City is moving forward on acquiring the 11.5-acre North Creek Salmon Heritage Site / Harborview Drive Conservation Property. Pierce County Council approved legislation to use Conservation Futures funds to assist with the purchase of the forested site, just above Donkey Creek. The intent is to leave most of the site in its natural condition, while adding non-motorized trails, salmon viewing areas and an interpretive loop with signs for the public to learn about the historical and cultural significance of this the stream to the Puyallup Tribe. 

I encourage you to make a trip down to Austin Park – in the past few weeks, we have installed a new sign recognizing the sx???babs? (“swift water people”) band of the Puyallup Tribe that first resided in Gig Harbor. The park has been re-named Austin Park at tx?aalq?l Estuary, honoring the traditional Lushootseed name, meaning the “place where game exists.” We are also moving forward on the installation of an Honoring Symbol to be installed this November – a wonderful sculpture by artist Guy Capoeman. 


There is a lot of interest in how these traditional names are pronounced in the ancestral language of the Puyallup people, and I was pleased to work with the Puyallup Tribal Language Program to produce a voice box that is now available at the park. Audio buttons, powered by solar, give information on Honoring the First People; Restoring Relationships; sx???babs? - Swift Water People; tx?aalq?l – Restoring the Name; and tx??ls?ucid – Lushootseed Language.

Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank began work on their foundation for the new structure. I will be asking Council to support in my 2022 budget a one-time donation of $200,000 to help fund FISH’s building and/or ongoing program fund.

 

As a reminder, the deadline for 2022 LTAC grants is September 27, 2021. These grants are available to non-profits and for-profit businesses hosting events that draw tourism to the City of Gig Harbor. The application form is available on our website, and you can email communications@gigharborwa.gov with any questions. This will be the second year we award an increased amount of $125,000. The maximum ask per project is $20,000 and grant funds are distributed as reimbursements for expenses. 

 

Please feel free to sign up and watch my Live Facebook once a month. It is again, on Sept. 17th at 10:00AM. You can always catch it afterwards, ask questions that we can answer or connect with others on the forum. Be safe out there, drive carefully, and remember to be kind to each other.

 

Cheers,

 

Kit

 

Aug 05

Mayor's Update - August 5, 2021

Posted on August 5, 2021 at 3:40 PM by Joshua Stecker

Good Day Gig Harbor,

 

I am happy to announce that Nevin Harrison, representing the USA at the Tokyo 2021 World Olympics just won the gold medal in the 200-meter canoe race on Wednesday evening. She trained with the Gig Harbor Canoe & Kayak Racing Team, and we congratulate her and coach Alan, coach Aaron, the other support coaches and all of her Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing teammates. Our community is very proud and supportive of our hometown team and appreciate all they do for us. I spoke with Coach Alan and he thanks the community for their support over all these years and appreciates the value we place on the team. 

 

We’re in full swing here in beautiful Gig Harbor summer, enjoying the Summer Sounds at Skansie concerts on Tuesdays, farmers market on Thursdays and Movies in the Park on Fridays. Visit the City’s Facebook page for upcoming events, at facebook.com/cityofgigharbor

 

As a city, we’re still navigating what re-opening looks like, especially in the wake of a rising number of COVID cases with the highly contagious Delta variant spreading. Hospitals are reporting higher numbers of cases, with 533 cases confirmed in Pierce County on August 3 alone. That’s the largest spike we’ve seen since December 2020. Cases that reach the hospital are mostly people who have not received the vaccine. I urge you to get the vaccine as soon as you can – we want to keep moving forward and getting back to our normal way of life. 

 

If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, you’ll still need to wear a mask in public and observe social distancing. At several levels, strong recommendations to return to masking indoors for all – vaccinated or not – have been put in place. Businesses can choose whether or not they require masks or distancing on their own, and several large corporations, like Microsoft or Disney, have chosen to put this in place.  Some companies and cities are considering mandatory vaccinations unless there are issues with underlying health problems or religious beliefs.

 

So far, close to 900,000 doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 419,301 are fully vaccinated, a rise of about 40,000 more fully vaccinated people than when we last reported, about a month ago. That means 46% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and 53% are partially vaccinated. You can see Gig Harbor’s metrics at www.tpchd.org. I have met many locals that were vaccinated in other locations, so the Pierce County numbers may not include those who have been vaccinated elsewhere, our actual numbers may be even higher. 

 

We re-opened to the public for the first time on July 26, had an employee test positive for COVID, and moved swiftly to inform the Health Department and work to minimize risk following their directives. Employees with exposure were sent home, vaccinated staff had the opportunity to return and mask at all times after a few days of remote work if they showed no symptoms of COVID; unvaccinated staff were required to quarantine for 14 days and mask upon return to work. As always, the health of our staff and citizens comes first. We are working with the Health Department on guidelines for masking in several scenarios.  

 

All departments of the Civic Center re-open to the public on Monday, August 9. We are not requiring our front desk staff to ask citizens proof of vaccination, but masks are available, and remote opportunities for interaction are also still in place. 

 

We are keeping our focus on achieving goals that are important to our citizens, below is a recap of what’s in motion over the last few weeks. 

 

We celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the City of Gig Harbor’s incorporation on July 12, and I read a proclamation at our first Summer Sounds concert recognizing all of the elected officials, staff and citizens that have helped make Gig Harbor such a wonderful place to live and do business. 

 

The Washington State Office of Financial Management provided the City with details on accepting our allocation of $2.9 million in ARPA Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. We should receive half in 2021, and half in 2022. Council gave me the authority to accept these funds in our Council Meeting on July 12. Council also met in study session on June 17 to discuss potential applications for these funds, which must be used by the end of 2024. The uses will be approved by Council in future budgets or budget amendments.

 

One of the potential uses of these funds is an IT upgrade of our Council Chambers audio and video systems, to support meetings and court sessions held in Council Chambers. Councilmembers gave their support for additional options to broadcast City Council meetings, noting that this is a great way to increase transparency in government, giving a wider set of the population the ability to attend Council meetings remotely. 

 

In our July Council meetings, we heard an update from our finance Director Dave Rodenbach on the status of our Civic Center Debt bonds.

 

As of June 30, 2021, the City’s 2010 LTGO bonds had $2,645,000 outstanding debt available to be retired early. The City has $1,593,631 in the Civic Center Debt Reserve fund available to pay down a portion of this, with the remaining balance funded by the new LTGO bonds, not to exceed $1.15 million. The newly refunded bonds will mature June 1, 2026 and carry an estimated interest rate of 1.70%.  This means we save ourselves just over $160, 000 in interest now, and approximately $368,000 per year in interest through 2026. 

 

This fund was established for this very purpose in 2001 – to be excellent stewards of public funds and responsible with taxpayer dollars. Council and I are supportive of this and I hope to have this pass at our second reading at the August 9th City Council meeting.

 

Also, in July our Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm reported on the Emergency Water Intertie project for Canterwood Boulevard. He let us know the City is seeking Public Works Trust Fund Loans to help finance the project.

 

We have an update on the work happening in Gig Harbor North for installation of the rapid flashing beacons and crosswalk safety upgrades that were covered under the city’s settlement with OPG/Raytheon. Work is currently underway, with installation happening for a number of those crosswalks. 

 

This fall, we’ll see work completed on the intersection at Harborview and Stinson. This is going to be a lengthy project, and this fall, we anticipate a full closure of the intersection for a few consecutive days for essential work on underground utility relocation, meaning there will be a detour across the highway for downtown access. The total project completion date for the installation of a roundabout will be in 2022. 

 

In news on structures the City has interest in, I gave Council an overview of the property we acquired at 7601 Soundview – we’ll be accepting new tenants at market rate, and I’ve appointed Interim City Administrator Tony Piasecki to oversee that process.  The new amount will offset the interest on the whole land and park purchase after two years. Again, fiscal responsibility is one of our top priorities, and a must for our citizens. 

 

Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank informed Council of their future plans for their new facility which we were all very excited about. I will be asking Council to support in my 2022 budget a one-time donation of $200,000 to help fund FISH’s building and/or ongoing program fund.

 

At the July 26 Council Meeting I updated Council that the City will postpone the public outreach and decisions concerning the future use of the Masonic Temple building until next year, there isn’t enough time to prepare in Fall of 2021. 

 

I also reported that the City will be using the $10,000 included for tree planting in the 2021 Budget at several different locations around the City -   Veteran’s Park, Crescent Creek Park, Soundview Forest and the Skate Park. 

 

In our parks, we are making forward movement on the Honoring Symbol art piece at Austin Park, with an estimated installation completion of November, pending the permitting process.  I am also working with entities that support the tribe for signage and a voice box for educational knowledge of our Native American Tribe down at tx?aalq?l Estuary.

 

Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm gave an update on the engineer’s estimate for the Community Paddlers’ Dock at Ancich Park, and the changes that were required on the reconstruction of the chimney at the Eddon Boat Park Brick House remodel.

 

Many of you have noticed a slow down in staffing and hiring throughout our community. At the City, our Human Resources Director, Kameil Borders, presented proposed staffing level changes for all departments, in order to accurately staff the City and provide services to our citizens. 

 

Our Tourism and Communications Director, Laura Pettitt, reported on the success of a new LTAC grant structure instituted in 2021, in which we increased our commitment to the community by amplifying our grant structure for nonprofit operations and events by $100,000 per year. In 2021, the Tourism department took a test run on this structure, which set a cap of $20,000 per award, in order to ensure funds were equally distributed and encouraged a variety of new and former applicants. The process worked well, and LTAC recommended a continuation of the amounts for 2022. Applications for 2022 LTAC grant funding will be opened shortly. 

 

Our Community Development Director, Katrina Knutson, reported on the City’s intergovernmental agreement with the South Sound Housing Affordability Partners, outlining the history of the coalition, the structure defining the program the Mayor has done with the group over three years and the City of Gig Harbor’s expectations and contributions. This is a big issue for our community and requires a coordinated regional effort to address for years to come. 

 

We also heard from Community Development on the upcoming draining of the pond at Harbor Hill. Signage encouraging citizens not to dump their goldfish, turtles, lobsters or other pets into the pond. Goldfish are an endangered species and can grow extremely large and cause issues.

 

This Friday at Skansie Park, our outdoor movie is Moana starting at 8pm. Then next Tuesday August 10th is The Beatniks concert at 6pm – keep in mind, this is a big one, so make plans early as we’ll be closing Harborview Drive from 4:30p – 8:30p. 

 

Keep enjoying your summer, be safe out there, be courteous and remember to be kind to each other.

 

Cheers,

 

Kit

Jun 30

Mayor's Update - June 30, 2021

Posted on June 30, 2021 at 1:52 PM by Joshua Stecker

Good Day Gig Harbor,

The last few days of the historic heat wave over the Pacific Northwest have truly reminded me how lucky we are to live in a temperate climate where 100 degree days are very rare. I am also glad to see how our community pulls together in times of need – I want to thank the Gig Harbor Police Department and Chapel Hill Church for opening a cooling center for residents without air conditioning. It was wonderful to see people coming together and even donating bottled water to the cooling center. Our water feature at Skansie Park is now open from 11:00am to 7:00pm for the season, marking the first time it’s been back in operation since the pandemic. 

As we cool down, another big event is happening - the state re-opens today, June 30. We’ve worked toward this for a long time, and I know we’re all excited to see our friends and neighbors, to patronize our local businesses, and to get back to a normal way of doing things. If you’re fully vaccinated, masks and physical distancing requirements go away. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, you’ll still need to wear a mask in public and observe social distancing. There are some exceptions, this doesn’t apply to health care settings like hospitals, long-term care, or doctor’s offices; correctional facilities, homeless shelters, or schools. Summer school is still requiring masks, for example. Additionally, businesses can choose whether or not they require masks or distancing on their own. 

So far, about 800,000 doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 382,000 are fully vaccinated. That means 42% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and nearly 50% are partially vaccinated. You can see Gig Harbor’s metrics at TPCHD.org by neighborhood. 

This Friday, we’re hosting a special pop-up concert at Skansie Park featuring Gig Harbor’s own Redemption, a high-energy country band. I encourage you to come out, say hello to your friends and neighbors, and enjoy a beautiful summer night here in downtown Gig Harbor. Remember – Arrive by land or sea, but don’t put your chair out before 3:00p. For anyone who does, we have a team in place to collect and store those behind Skansie house for people to pick up. This is in place to allow our citizens and guests to use the park for the day.

It’s been a busy few weeks at the City, with progress made on many of our key initiatives and new items introduced. 

In our City Council meeting on June 14, I read a proclamation formally recognizing June 19 as “Juneteenth” here in the City of Gig Harbor. I also highlighted a message from Peninsula School District Superintendent Dr. Art Jarvis that noted his support and recognition of the efficiency and cost-savings that the City’s Planning, Building and Public Works departments provided PSD with on the permitting process for two new elementary schools. The savings in time and cost will enable PSD to renovate both Kopachuck and Key Peninsula Middle Schools, which is a huge benefit for our community. 

Our Public Works Director, Jeff Langhelm, reported on the process and upcoming deadline in December of this year to update the PROS Plan. A consultant was selected to assist in the development of this plan, however the scope of the contract has increased with the Parks Manager position still vacant. Work continues on this. 

On an exciting note, a project we’ve worked on for a long time has reached a new milestone. Kirsten Gregory of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team announced that the team has received a $250,000 grant to assist in the construction of the human-powered watercraft floats. Public Works added in that the City was approved for a $25,000 grant from the Port of Tacoma, and $100,000 from lodging tax funds will be put forward for this project being that this is tourist-related and that LTAC offered no objection to the expenditure. This money will offset what would have come from the General Fund.

On June 17, our City Administrator, Bob Larson, gave an overview of the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) Local Fiscal Recovery Fund and the related acceptable uses for the $2.99 million allocated to Gig Harbor. He presented four options for Council to consider for funding: Civic Center HVAC improvements, Council Chambers audio/video improvements, North Well #9 development and North Harborview Drive Sanitary Sewer replacement. Council expressed support for funding the Civic Center and Council Chambers improvements and supported funding the Well #9 project over the sewer replacement project. Staff will consider the option of using these funds for potential cost overruns on the construction of the Public Works Operations Center.

On June 28, Council approved Resolution 1212, which was the adoption of a six-year Transportation Improvement Plan for 2022 through 2027. Also passed at the council meeting was Resolution 1214 - Public Works Trust Fund Loan Opportunities and Gig Harbor North Crosswalk Improvements – Public Works Construction Contract Award. 

Construction on our 38th Street Improvement project begins shortly, the new sidewalk addition will be a welcome sight for many, and we will continue to work up to the City Limit line, and in partnership with Pierce County on the potential continuation of that sidewalk past city limits. 

If you’re interested in volunteering with the City, we have an opening on the Parks Commission, as one of our members is stepping down. The Parks Commission puts a wonderful amount of work in to maintaining Gig Harbor’s quality of life, and it’s a great introduction to public service. I encourage you to apply if you’re interested at cityofgigharbor.net.

This coming week, we’ll bid our goodbyes to retiring City Administrator Bob Larson, and welcome interim City Administrator Tony Piasecki. We again express our thanks to Bob for a job well done navigating the City through the pandemic, and welcome Tony back as Interim City Administrator to help us set the course for our next chapter here at the City. 

With the 4th of July weekend upon us, I’ve received several calls about today’s Pierce County Council vote on a potential fireworks ban for the county – it did not move forward. As a reminder, the City of Gig Harbor has passed a one-day window for fireworks, which will begin in 2022. For this year, there is a four-day window, from 9:00a – 11:00p on July 1-3, 2021; and 9:00a – Midnight on July 4,2021.  

However - I urge you to consider celebrating this year without the use of fireworks, as the risk of fires is extremely high due to our continuing dry weather and historic heatwave. Setting off fireworks not only affects your safety and personal property, but other people’s safety and lives. I’ve personally known two people whose houses have burned to the ground due to smoldering fireworks on the roof. 

We are very excited to see our city coming back to life, and for a wonderful summer ahead. I wish you al a happy and healthy 4th of July weekend. Please be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.

Cheers,

Kit