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A Note From Your Mayor


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

Jun 07

Mayor's Update - June 7, 2021

Posted on June 7, 2021 at 3:50 PM by Joshua Stecker

Good Day Gig Harbor,

Here in the city, we’ve had some record temperatures with some needed rain as well. We have a full summer of the events and gatherings we know and love are just around the corner.

We’re on track for a full re-opening of Washington state on June 30. So far, about 678,000 doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 312,000 are fully vaccinated. That means 34.1% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and 8.5% is partially vaccinated. Last week an average of 5,530 residents per day received a vaccine.

I rang the cow bell for the opening of the Waterfront Farmers Market on June 3 and it will run every Thursday until September 9. On June 13, we welcome back the Pierce Transit Trolley. On June 21 is Fest4 All Make Music Day with concerts occurring all day on 4 stages in the Uptown Shopping Center. Then in mid-July, our concerts and movies in the park return.

Remember you cannot put chairs out to reserve your spot until after 3pm. Otherwise we collect them and put them behind Skansie house for people to pick up.
This allows our citizens and guests to use the park for the day.

Concert Schedule:
• July 2 – Redemption
• July 13 – Surf Wax America
• July 20 – Sweet T & Justice
• July 27 – Mark Hurwitz & Gin Creek
• August 3 – Sounds Like Dolores
• August 10 – The Beatniks
• August 17 – Flock of Beagles
• August 24 – The Paperboys
• August 31 – Nate Botsford

Movie Schedule:
• July 16 – Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
• July 23 – Grease
• July 30 – Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
• August 6 – Moana
• August 13 – A League of Their Own
• August 27 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

We hope you come out and enjoy yourselves and support our downtown businesses during these evening events, too.

In May we got to recognize some of our longest serving employees. Police Chief Kelly Busey, Field Supervisor Jim Stattin, and Maintenance Tech Tony Poling each reached their 30-year anniversary with the City this year. Their dedication and commitment to the City is amazing and we are lucky to have them on board.

Our City Clerk, Molly Towslee, also reached her 30-year anniversary this year. She announced here retirement earlier this year and the Council meeting on May 24 was her last as the City Clerk. At that meeting I read a proclamation honoring her and thanking her for all she has done for the City. Over the years she has been the one constant in the City’s administration. Her knowledge and experience has been very important to us and she will be greatly missed.

Last month our City Administrator, Bob Larson, also announced his upcoming retirement. Bob helped us navigate through some really tough situations over the past year and a half. He’s also been gracious enough to stay on and ensure the transition to an interim City Administrator is a smooth one. On July 6, Tony Piasecki will join us as the interim City Administrator. Tony filled this same interim role for us back in 2018 when I first came on as Mayor. He did a great job then and I know he’ll be helpful through many months ahead getting ready to help the next Mayor choose a permanent City Administrator.

This year’s legislative session in Olympia wrapped up last month. We went into the year with a pretty long list of wants -- and we were successful in getting some of what we asked for. We secured another $500,000 to fund the Gig Harbor Sports Complex, we got support for funding our top three transportation project requests in the revenue package that has yet to be adopted, and we retained the option for a multi-family tax exemption program that could help Gig Harbor out with affordable housing.

The time has come to submit funding requests to our representatives in DC for our biggest capital projects. In the past month, we’ve compiled support from community organizations and submitted requests to Representative Kilmer, Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell. Our lobbyist has let us know these are being viewed favorably, thanks in large part to the support letters submitted by many in our community. Federal funding would provide a huge opportunity to make a big difference on traffic issues, safety and walkability as well as quality of life upgrades throughout the city.

We’re moving forward on the development of Ancich Waterfront Park. Council has worked out a new lease amendment with the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team that will hopefully extend their lease to use the kayak storage facility for 15 years from the date they are able to move in. We’re working with the Parks Commission to iron out the details on how we’ll rent out storage space to other residents and we’ll have a policy in place for that soon.

At the next Council meeting Council will review the design and concept for the Fishermen’s Homeport. Council wanted to see a design that showed finger slip moorage to be able to support the more fishing vessels and we hope it will provide plenty of room to maneuver and still be safe for the human-powered watercraft in the area. It is a tighter fit than the linear dock that was recommended by the consultants but that Council turned down.

Please be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.

Cheers,

Kit





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