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A Note From Your Mayor


Oct 22

Mayor's Update - October 22, 2021

Posted on October 22, 2021 at 10:30 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 the blog post below are unintentional and, unfortunately, unavoidable. This underscores the need for our efforts to help the Puyallup Tribe bring awareness and recognition to their language.

 

Good Day Gig Harbor,

 

The crisper air has returned to Gig Harbor, and I actually like the cooler weather as opposed to our super-hot days. We are enjoying the beauty of the changing leaves. Late fall also means budget season here at the Civic Center. Council, staff, and I are planning for the year ahead. You can view the preliminary 2022 budget here. We worked very hard to be fiscally responsible and good stewards of public funds.

 

Locally, the COVID-19 Delta spike case rate has dropped a bit since we reported last month, we are at 492 cases per 100,000 in Pierce County, down from 667 in September. We have passed the state deadline for required vaccinations for state, school, health care and childcare employees – to note, this is a state directive, the City of Gig Harbor does not fall under this mandate for state employees. 

 

Over a million doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 493,000 are fully vaccinated. That means 54% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and 60% are partially vaccinated. The numbers may be slightly higher given that some people have been vaccinated in other counties or states, not reflected in this number. You can see Gig Harbor’s specific metrics at www.tpchd.org. Please be a good example and get vaccinated. 

 

King County’s vaccine requirement for outdoor large events and indoor bars, restaurants, gyms, music venues and other establishments begins on October 25. Pierce County currently does not have vaccine requirements for patrons of these kinds of events or businesses.

 

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. After this coming Monday night’s Council Meeting, we are working to have our study sessions and Council meetings in person, following state guidelines for masking and social distancing. These meetings, of course, are open to the public, both in-person (with masks and distancing required) and streamed live to follow OPMA guidelines if you do not want to attend in person. 

 

On October 8, the City recognized and celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Over the course of the last two years, a group of over 60 people have worked to strengthen the City’s relationship with the Puyallup Tribe, and honor the sx???babs? (“swift water people”) band of the Tribe that first resided in Gig Harbor. We have renamed the former Austin Estuary Park to reflect the traditional Lushootseed name for the estuary, which means the “place where game exists.” New signage was installed last month, recognizing Austin Park at tx?aalq?l Estuary.

 

We passed Resolution 1199, which allowed me to work with entities that support the Tribe. This led to the voice box and five stainless steel panels at Austin Park at tx?aalq?l Estuary, along with the appendix map that shows the details of the historic walk and honoring welcoming statue by Guy Capoeman. This will be installed shortly and dedicated by Tribal Councilmember Anna Bean and Tribal staff. I would also like to thank the honoring committee for their many years of work on the welcoming carving project. 

 

The City will also now recognize the month of November as Native American Heritage Month. In addition, we continue to work with the Puyallup Tribe on land conservation issues, including the upcoming purchase of the North Creek Salmon Heritage site, 11.5 acres north of Donkey Creek, which hold cultural significance for the Tribe as well as our salmon restoration. 

 

In other news, Council adopted two ordinances recommended by the Planning & Building Committee in our October 11 Council meeting. We’ve had quite a few questions and some misunderstanding on our approach to short-term rentals, and our reactive ordinance based on the state’s law to prohibit cities from banning transitional housing. 

 

Council approved an emergency moratorium on accepting new applications for short-term rentals over the next six months, after the Planning Commission directed staff to draft a moratorium and discuss with Council at their September 7 commission meeting. The City has not had a straightforward policy on short-term rentals, and we’ve heard concerns about their impact as well as concerns on the permitting process from people seeking to operate a short-term rental. This is not a ban on short-term rentals, it is a “pause” in accepting new applications.

 

The City’s vision will be informed by the community’s vision for this topic, and the two need to align. The Planning Commission will review how other cities handle short term rentals, consider several options and public testimony, and then prepare a formal recommendation to City Council by their February 28, 2022 meeting. The goal is to craft a smart, future-focused policy for short-term rentals in the city limits and strike the right balance on economic opportunity while preserving the character of our neighborhoods. 

 

We’ve also had a lot of questions on why the City adopted codes specific to transitional housing and emergency shelters. We had a deadline of September 30, 2021 to align with a new state law recently passed (ESSHB 1220) that requires all Washington cities to allow transitional housing and emergency shelters. By passing an ordinance, the City Council adopted stricter regulations and we as a City retain more local control over this requirement. 

 

This ordinance does not allow “tent cities” or for those experiencing homelessness to sleep or live on public sidewalks. There are no plans currently for shelters or transitional housing facilities in Gig Harbor. The City will allow only one continuously operating shelter at a time, and the occupancy limit is set at 10 families or 40 people, whichever is fewer. The City has also set limits on transitional housing in residential neighborhoods, with requirements for these to be a minimum of a half-mile apart and follow the same building and safety codes as ordinary residential housing. 

 

The City’s Planning Commission will further consider these regulations and make a recommendation to City Council regarding further restrictions by the February 28, 2022 City Council meeting. 

 

To address the need for affordable/attainable housing in Pierce County, I have been part of the steering committee with other Mayors through the County to developing what is now known as the South Sound Housing Affordability Partnership (SSHAP). The organization is ready to transition to an Executive Board, and I nominated Councilmember Markley for appointment to this crucial board, and Council agreed. 

 

You can also find two full FAQ documents on the topics of short-term rentals and transitional housing on our website for further reference. You can also send comments for the Planning Commission to review at communications@gigharborwa.com

 

In news from our Public Works and Parks Departments, in our September 27 Council meeting, we celebrated the donation of property located adjacent to the Cushman Trail at 96th Street from Jim Chaffeur and the five owners of North Creek Gig Harbor, LLC, for this donation. The City intends to add this land into the parks inventory, with the hope to build out new parking access for the Cushman Trail. Next up is Council approval for this use. 

 

City staff is also currently reviewing information gathered from our recent Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces public poll, and will be instituting suggestions from the comments received. We continue to see a large amount of interest in the Gig Harbor Sports Complex, and work is moving forward. I have spoken recently with Charlie Davis, the CEO and President of the YMCA – they report that the fundraising campaign for the lit turfed fields has begun, and he’s enthusiastic on the donations coming in. The City will be meeting with the Y again soon.

 

I want to congratulate our Wastewater Treatment Plant staff for their 14th consecutive Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award. In order to achieve this award, round-the-clock monitoring needs to be completed, without a single error. This is a monumental achievement, and our WWTP staff do a remarkable job serving our City. 

 

At our September 27 Council meeting, Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm updated us on the contract approval for Lift Station #12. This will completely rebuild a deteriorating lift station. 

 

Sharing some great news – Council is supportive of allocating $500,000 from the City’s 2021 Budget from ARPA funds received from the federal government to FISH Food Bank’s construction of a new long-term facility. FISH does an incredible amount of good work in our community, and I look forward to Council’s further consideration for approval.  

 

This past week, we also saw the awarding of 2022 lodging tax grants to a record-breaking number 19 events scheduled to draw in tourism for 2022. Council is in the process of budget approval; we will share more details on www.visitgigharborwa.com for the year to come. 

 

We’ve also seen three new Gig Harbor staff join us, we are in the process of signing contracts for a new Judge and Prosecutor for Gig Harbor Municipal Court, we welcomed new GHPD Officer Jody Roberson, and we are in the interview process for a new Parks Manager and Tourism and Communications Assistant. 

 

As a reminder, the City of Gig Harbor’s “bring your own bag” ordinance will be repealed, as the State’s more restrictive law went into effect on October 1. 

 

Our upcoming council meetings include an October 25 presentation from the Gig Harbor Boat Shop on the completion of the Marine Rails project; an October 26 City Council study session on 2024-2044 population targets and special event permits (3:30 p.m.); an October 28 City Council Budget study session; and a November 8 presentation from the Mary Bridge Thrift Store. I encourage you to attend virtually via Zoom if these are important issues to you, you can find streaming details on our City website. 

 

Last but not least – there’s only three more weeks until you vote. I encourage you to fully research the issues and candidates to make informed decisions on the direction of your City of Gig Harbor leadership. 

 

I invite you to sign up and watch my Live Facebook once a month, I’ll be live next on Friday, October 22 at 10:00 a.m. on our City Facebook page. You can always catch it afterwards, ask questions that we can answer or connect with others on the forum. Wishing you good health – and remember to be kind to each other.

 

Cheers,

 

Kit 

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