Oct 12

Mayor’s Update - October 8, 2020

Posted on October 12, 2020 at 9:39 AM by Joshua Stecker

Good Day Gig Harbor,

It is now officially fall and as the air gets crisp and we say goodbye to summer, I hope each of you are doing well.  We are all going through a challenging time, unlike any other. This year tests our strengths and is an incredible hardship for most. I feel for all of our businesses, parents, children and community. I hope all of you stay healthy and happy. 

We are starting to see COVID-19 cases rise again over the past few weeks throughout Pierce County. Kids are returning to school, and that is bound to lead to more contact between people. It’s more important than ever to continue to wear your masks.

Pierce County is still in Phase Two of the Safe Start plan so we’re still “on pause” from advancing to Phase Three. Our County numbers need to drastically improve before we can move to Phase Three.

Some bright news to share is that Governor Inslee announced that Phase Two is being modified to allow a wider amount of business activities. Members of different households will now be able to be seated together at restaurants indoors, and restaurants will be able to serve alcohol as late as 11 p.m. The table size will be six in Phase Two and eight in Phase Three.

Libraries will be allowed to have some indoor activity at 25 percent capacity now, similar to museums. Movie theaters will be allowed to have 25 percent occupancy in Phase Two and 50 percent occupancy in Phase Three, with social distancing required and masks required outside of eating and drinking.

The guidelines for school-related and non-school related sports will now be in line, and sports will be put into different risk categories as far as when they can restart. There will also be rules about transportation, group size and masks.

The limit for wedding receptions in Phase Two remains at 30 but will increase to 50 people in Phase Three. Now real estate open houses are allowed, limited by the restrictions on gathering size in a county, which is currently five people in Phase Two. 

Allowable activities have also been expanded for the "Personal Services" business category. This includes salons, cosmetologists, estheticians, tattoo artists, and other similar categories. Some close-contact services, like facials or beard trimmings are now allowed if the employee wears an N95 respirator.  An FDA-approved surgical mask combined with a face shield will suffice as long as the provider has N95 respirators on order, if they are not immediately available.

The Pierce County COVID-19 Testing Trailer will be returning to Gig Harbor High School at 5101 Rosedale Street. Upcoming dates include October 16th, November 20th and December 18th. As a reminder, this drive-up testing is presented by the Gig Harbor Police Department and the Department of Emergency Management – testing is free to all and no symptoms need to be present to have a test administered. 

The Band Together Small Business Relief Concert Series wraps up with its final concert on October 9th featuring local favorite, The Beatniks! You can still donate to the virtual COVID relief effort, designed to both raise funds to help support and to highlight local businesses struggling through the impacts of the pandemic by texting Band2gether to 44321, or you can visit www.ghkpbandtogether.org for details.

I’ve updated the frequency of my Facebook Live Q&A sessions, which now happen every other Friday. I’d love to have you join me. It’s a great chance to start discussions on issues or items you’re interested in, and to get an update on what’s happening in the City. The next two sessions will be on October 9th and October 23rd at 10:00 a.m.

We are still planning to be cautious with our 2021 Budget as more data comes in on the financial effects of COVID-19. The draft 2021 Budget will be presented to Council and available to the public on October 30th. Council will hold meetings to talk about priorities on October 19th and 20th and that will help determine what ends up in the final budget.

There are two important studies underway right now that are looking at the possibility of expanding the Tacoma Narrows Airport to have a longer runway that will allow commercial passenger airlines. The studies are being done by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) and the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC). Both studies have shown Tacoma Narrows as a site with the potential to expand. No decisions are coming soon, but it’s important to be involved in the first steps of the planning process.

This expansion is too close to our City and will create all kinds of traffic, noise and pollution issues for us. I met with the City Council this week and Council will be adopting a resolution at their October 26th meeting voicing their strong opposition to any significant expansion of the Tacoma Narrows Airport. The City will be sending letters to our representatives in Olympia and Washington DC, as well as to PSRC, CACC and Pierce County. We will continue to voice our opposition any time the subject comes up in the future.

You can reach out to give your comments by visiting https://www.psrc.org/aviation-baseline-study-open-house or emailing CACC@wsdot.wa.gov.

The decision to build or expand an airport ultimately requires agreement between local jurisdictions, the airport sponsor, funding partners and regulatory agencies which likely would include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the State of Washington, and environmental agencies, among others. A central decision maker is the airport sponsor, which would be the lead agency in developing a new airport. Pierce County is the sponsor for Tacoma Narrows Airport.

The Tacoma Narrows Airport is also conducting its own in-house Landside Planning Study and is hosting an on-line open house through October 13th. The online open house shares details about the project, planning process, future projections and encourages your input on development concepts. This study focuses on the aprons, taxilanes, auto parking and hangar areas. The study DOES NOT look at changes to the runway.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) is also conducting a study of new, potential passenger-only ferry service locations around Puget Sound.   Gig Harbor is one of the locations under consideration by the study.  PSRC launched the study early in 2020, starting with a review of previous studies and current passenger-only ferry service to identify trends, lessons learned and best practices. Gig Harbor has scored and ranked high during all completed phases of the study and is currently in the top 25% of route considerations. This is concerning to me, given the implications to space and crowding in downtown Gig Harbor.  

We met with staff and the consultants from PSRC last Monday and listened to their findings and the consultant’s study on a passenger ferry for Gig Harbor.  The ferry style being considered is a 250-passenger ferry to enter our harbor or be at the old ferry landing right outside the entrance to our harbor. When asked to provide feedback we had several large concerns.  We know that the ferry service would have to be greatly funded and subsidized by our city, thus our taxpayers.  We also learned the state will fund roads and highways but is leaving ferry funded projects up to regional, county and the cities as the source to fund this. We are not excited to tax our citizens to fund this.

We greatly feel the ferry would overpower the quaint harbor we love, create erosion of our sand spit at the lighthouse and property owners’ beaches. We educated them how we have sailboat races, paddleboards, kayakers and a huge watercraft bay that would be a detriment to our community. Traffic problems, no parking and our small community could not handle all of this. We would also have angry citizens and lawsuits.  Our primary concerns include parking, traffic and quality of life. We told them thank you but asked them to take us off their list.

Council adopted a Resolution last month that will permanently recognize October 12th as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the month of November as Native American Heritage Month here in the City of Gig Harbor. Each year during October and November, we will proudly display the flag of the Puyallup Nation in our Council Chambers.

We will soon be gathering an ad hoc committee made up of councilmembers, residents, the Puyallup Tribe, and a Parks Commissioner to discuss restoring the original Native American name to a park to honor the sx??babc? (sk-whuh-babsh) band of the Puyallup Tribe. Next year we will see the dedication of an Honorary Symbol at Austin Estuary Park. We will be talking about other ways to recognize and honor the first people who lived here as well.

City Council’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee is working right now on a Legislative Agenda to inform our representatives in Olympia what the City needs. We are focusing in on congestion issues on Highway 16, funding for the Sports Complex, and assistance in adding more attainable housing in the City.

Grant applications are now available for local non-profits to apply for lodging tax funds. These funds can only be used to help support local tourism by promoting events or supporting organizations that bring in tourists. Last year’s recipients included groups like the Harbor History Museum, Downtown Waterfront Association, the Eddon Boatshop, Race for a Soldier, Harbor Wild Watch, and the Gig Harbor Film Festival. November 2nd is the deadline to apply.

A Virtual Open House for the public was held on September 26th to show the new design option for Lift Station 6 on Ryan Street.  The Open House exhibits depicted an underground lift station with pedestrian guardrail and landscaping amenities surrounding the station. Nearby residents attended and some expressed their appreciation to the City for listening to the community and agreeing to design an underground replacement lift station at this location.  Design work for the new lift station will begin soon and construction should start in early summer 2021, with complete construction by the end of 2021. 


I also wanted to share that Public works Director Jeff Langhelm recently recognized Senior Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator John Ozga for his recent award from the Pollution Control Association. We applaud his work and dedication to the City of Gig Harbor! Mr. Ozga plans to retire in December.

The City has several advisory boards that are filled by local volunteers and when new openings come up we advertise them on the front page of the City’s website. Right now we are looking to fill a couple of openings on our Salary Commission. The Salary Commission typically only meets every other year, but it has the important job of setting the salaries for the Mayor and City Councilmembers. This is a good opportunity to help support the City.

I love our community and our City and we will get through this. We have to pull together (while keeping our distance), mask up, and encourage those around us to be responsible and safe out there.

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



Sep 11

Mayor’s Update - September 10, 2020

Posted on September 11, 2020 at 1:23 PM by Joshua Stecker

Greetings Gig Harbor!

I hope you are all well and safe. Summer is winding down and kids are heading back to school, even if it is virtually for the time being. We’re as busy as ever here at the City and trying to provide as much support to our employees who are also acting as teachers during this time.

As a reminder, you can catch me live on Facebook every Friday at 10:00 AM sharing updates on what’s happening here at the city, along with updates on the current health situation as it applies to us here in Gig Harbor. We are here for you, our citizens, to ask questions and inform you more than ever before about our city and issues that we are all dealing with. You can ask questions via messenger or by commenting on our page throughout the week, or posting in the comments section, whether you’re watching live or later on in the day.

Here at the city, we’re carefully monitoring the health crisis, and planning for recovery and a return to normal. As of September 3rd, Gig Harbor is currently at 174 cases total since March, up 9 new cases over the last week. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reminds us that these numbers are good news, and to stay the course… we should all aim to keep it small when it comes to gatherings. Masks are working. Keep it up!!

As a reminder, the metrics for considering in-person school instruction at the elementary level, and a gradual hybrid model for middle and high school students is 75 cases per 100,000 and a test positivity rate of under 5%. We’ve reached three of four metrics for re-opening with that gradual model, and we’re trending in a good direction. The metrics for moving out of Phase Two are at 25 cases per 100,000 over a 14-day span.

The Gig Harbor Police Department has worked with the Department of Emergency Management to bring the Pierce County COVID-19 Testing Trailer back to Gig Harbor on the third Friday of each month beginning on September 18th. Other confirmed dates include October 16, November 20 and December 18. The testing will take place in the parking lot of the Tom Taylor YMCA branch at 10550 Harbor Hill Drive, and testing hours will be from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  This drive-up testing is free to all and no symptoms need to be present in order to undergo the testing. 

There’s also been new funding opportunities that have come up at the county and federal level recently.

The Pierce County Council recently approved the creation of the Pierce County COVID-19 School Assistance Program. $5.5 million in federal CARES Act funds are being made available to all K-12 Pierce County public school districts, tribal schools and approved private schools and charter schools with campuses in Pierce County. Allocations vary depending on student enrollment, but the maximum available is $750,000 per eligible school.

Launching yesterday, Wednesday, September 9, the Economic Development Board Vitality Grant will open applications to Pierce County small businesses and community organizations.  The window for accepting applications started at 10:00AM on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 through 5:00PM on Sunday, September 20, 2020. In total, there is $580,250 available through this program, funded by the Federal CARES Act distribution, with $90,225 is available for community organizations, and $490,000 available for small businesses through $5,000 grants.

These grant funds are intended to go to for-profit businesses only. They must be located in Pierce County, however home-based businesses are not eligible. Businesses must have 20 or fewer employees, be able to show they’ve been impacted by COVID-19 and need to have been operating since March 16, 2019.

On the Federal level, more money is coming for the unemployed. FEMA announced that Washington is eligible for the grant that the state’s Employment Security Department applied for recently. This funding allows the state to provide $300 a week to those who are unemployed due to COVID-19 and is added to existing unemployment benefits. This money should help those who lost the $600-per-week supplement to unemployment last month, but this is a short-term measure and has different eligibility requirements.

From the fiscal side of the city, Finance Director Dave Rodenbach gave an update to Council on August 27th on the current state of the City’s 2020 Budget. Sales tax revenues are down 3% through May, and we are planning on a total tax loss of around 10%. Right now, we are estimating a total 2020 revenue shortfall of around $800,000. We’ve been planning for this since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit and we’ve already taken steps to pause some projects and hold off on filling some vacant positions to make sure we stay financially healthy.

We’re planning to be cautious with our 2021 Budget, too. We’re going to need to trim around $1.3 million from the initial budget proposals from our Department Directors over the next month. The draft 2021 Budget will be presented to Council and available to the public on October 30. Council will hold meetings to talk about priorities and determine what ends up in the final budget.

Spending all of our yearly revenue without putting a reserve away is not a good business model. Last year, we were able to put over a million dollars away in a reserve fund for a major crisis. We didn’t know COVID was on the way, or that these funds would be used so soon, but the reserve is helping provide continuity to our residents in these tough times. My hope is that Council will to continue to be responsible to the taxpayers by making sure we’re able to proactively set aside funds for emergencies and be prepared for whatever may come next.

News from City Council also includes a very productive meeting that occurred on August 13th. Council met with Puyallup Tribal Leadership to talk about ways the City can respect, promote and celebrate the Tribe’s history and culture here in our community.

The City will be working with an Ad Hoc Committee made up of a cross-section of individuals and tribal historians to look at the potential of restoring a name at either Austin Estuary Park, Donkey Creek Park or Crescent Creek Park. This restoration would hark back to the original names given by the Swobabc (sk-WHUH-babsh) who first lived in the area. We think this is a very important endeavor to make sure our residents and visitors can feel connected to the first people who lived and worked in the harbor.

City engineers presented Council with design options for safety improvements along Burnham Drive between Harbor Hill and Harborview Drive. There is a real need for safe pedestrian access along this road connecting the waterfront to Gig Harbor North. Designs ranged from a simple infilled sidewalk to a wider multi-use path. Council’s Public Works Committee will be looking into it and making a recommendation soon.

Council’s Finance & Safety Committee is set to consider at options for regulating when and how motorized mobility devices are used on sidewalks, streets, and parks around town. The use of electric scooters is becoming more widespread and we need to have some rules in place to make sure they are used responsibly, so that everyone stays safe.


On August 24, Council passed resolution 1184, which allocates a portion of our Lodging Tax, or LTAC funds. Up to $125,000 per year will be given to local nonprofits through our grant program for events, festivals and event operations. The grants can be up to $20,000 each. The grant applications will be available within a couple weeks and then the LTAC Committee and City Council approves the grants which will be awarded for the 2021 fiscal year. The process will be reviewed again next spring for the 2022 fiscal year. This amount is a huge increase from previous administrations and gives the ability to help fund our nonprofit organizations throughout our city. This will only enrich our community and keep making Gig Harbor what it is, an incredible place to live, work, play, and visit.

The City has also settled a potential lawsuit with OPG dealing with the building of a shopping center at Gig Harbor North. Both parties were satisfied with the result, which will let OPG (or another developer) build the shopping center and grocery store when they see fit. We’ll be putting out a much more detailed joint statement soon.

We’re starting to get into election season, which means a massive increase of signage throughout the city. For unpermitted signs in the right of way, city staff will remove them, without bias for candidates or political party.

A quick reminder to all - signs are NOT allowed in roundabouts; medians; shoulders; travel lanes; and areas of the public right-of-way that are not accessible by a sidewalk or pedestrian walking path. For residential signs, the limit is four signs visible per property from the right of way. If you need more information on the immediate and free online process to permit an election sign, visit our website.

We’re also glad to welcome a new staff member to our planning division - Associate Planner, Amy Hilland. Amy comes to us from Kootenai County, and was previously based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She brings a lot of experience and knowledge and will be a great fit for our Community Development Department team. Please join us in welcoming Amy!

We’ll also soon be kicking off an employee engagement survey at the request of Council. The group that will be involved in this phase is a cross-section of the council members and senior staff in order to provide for a fair and robust representation of the issues.  This group will consist of Councilmembers Bob Himes, Jeni Woock and Le Rodenberg; and senior staff Katrina Knutson and Jeff Langhelm and Bob Larson. This is a chance for us to learn about what is working and what needs to be improved for our employee experience. It goes without saying that Gig Harbor is a wonderful town and a desirable place for people to want to come and work. We want to make sure we attract the best possible employees and do our best to keep them here. Over 44% of our employees have been here 10 years or more with the average of those employees here 18 years.

I did want to reaffirm to you my values that lead me to run for Mayor, help guide our city and uphold for our citizens and community. Being Mayor of Gig Harbor, an incredible City in a beautiful part of the world, is an honor and privilege. I want to thank the citizens of Gig Harbor for electing me with over 70% of the vote to enact a platform including the key goals the community found important:

  1. Hiring the right City Administrator
  2. Responsible growth
  3. Protecting our environment
  4. Transparent government and respect for our citizens
  5. Responsible government spending and accountability

As Mayor, working with and for the community, I will continue to fulfill the platform agenda while striving to solve unexpected issues that arise day-to-day. Our community has been very successful during my elected term and can be proud as the City moves forward to grow and prosper, even during difficult times.

Being a Mayor is not an easy job, and sometimes, it can even be thankless. Providing leadership can be challenging, even more so when representing the community’s interests for the long term, instead of special interests or personal agendas that might not best serve the interests of the larger community. Integrity and steadfastness to principles are regularly challenged in positions of leadership. Please be assured – the principles that lead to my election will never be compromised.

Openness and transparency have been well-served through events like Coffee with the Mayor, increasing the Mayors Blog publication to every three weeks, and our weekly Live Facebook Q&A series. I also enjoy spending an extensive amount of time with constituents, and my office is always open for phone calls and one-on-one meetings. I meet with staff throughout the week as well. Communication is a two-way street, and I listen as much as I try to provide information – it has been one of my key priorities during my tenure with the City. Leadership requires discipline, principles, and knowledge of and respect for the administrative and legal system we live under and through which we must govern and work.

The realities of the requirements of administration, our legal systems, and having respect for personal confidentiality often requires leaders to carefully navigate the rules and ethics of Human Resources practices. This is particularly true in personnel decisions. As Mayor, I have a responsibility to hold our staff accountable, to ensure that tax dollars are appropriately allocated, and follow wise administrative procedures.

I love Gig Harbor. I have dedicated my life to the role of Mayor for the last three years, and there have been considerable sacrifices to represent our community in this leadership role. As Mayor, I will continue to allocate my time, energy and passion with integrity and transparency in order to serve the best interests of the community I love. I have hired an experienced City Administrator who I trust can move things forward on my behalf. In a lot of ways, I will continue to step back while he runs the day-to-day administrative tasks so I can focus on more big-picture projects in our community.

Again, thank you, Gig Harbor, for entrusting me with serving as your Mayor. I am here to serve your needs and interests and will continue to work tirelessly for our community.

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




Aug 14

Mayor's Update - August 14, 2020

Posted on August 14, 2020 at 1:34 PM by Molly Towslee

Greetings Gig Harbor,

I hope you’re enjoying the summer. We still have a few weeks of incredible weather left before we kick off a new and different kind of school year.

Cases in Pierce County have remained steady over the past couple of weeks, reaching the highest single day for cases on August 6th – but we are seeing some signs that face coverings are helping. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reports an increase in cases can be attributed to all types of gatherings where people are not physically distancing and not wearing face coverings. County-wide totals as of August 11 are 5,737 cases and 128 deaths. The case rate is hovering around 144 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day span.

Here in Gig Harbor, we hosted a drive-thru COVID-19 testing trailer in the parking lot of Gig Harbor High School on July 28. We were glad to see a significant turnout, with 352 tests and only 7 positive cases. We’re working with Pierce County’s Department of Emergency Management to get back out to Gig Harbor in the very near future – possibly even on a weekend.

Over the past three weeks, we’ve heard a lot from the state level.

The Governor gave some new guidance points on the following topics:

  • For indoor fitness and training, masks should be worn except during strenuous exercise – this allows standalone indoor facilities and staffed indoor facilities to continue operation, which went into effect on August 10.
  • Long-term care facilities now have a phased plan to be able to offer visitation and other activities, starting on August 12.
  • Re-opening schools will be through a county-by-county approach, via Washington State Department of Health and in partnership with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

To note, our Peninsula School District has already announced we’ll be starting the year in the online-only format for safety.

From the city’s finance department, despite all the COVID-19 related shutdowns, our sales tax revenues through May 2020 are only 3% behind what we saw year-to-date in May 2019. That’s a great indicator of local business support through the past months. We are still cautious, and bracing for overall losses of up to 20%, which represents a city revenue shortfall of $1.4 million this year. Our 2020 budget includes a $1.6 million strategic reserve that we’ve built up through careful spending and fiscal responsibility over the past few years, but we are carefully considering all city spending at this time.

Last month, we said goodbye to our long-time Principal Planner, Peter Katich, who retired after a 43-year career. Pete was integral in many important projects, including the Heron’s Key Development, Pleasurecraft Marina Restaurant, Olympic Towne Center, Ancich Park, Skansie Brothers Park Lift Station Improvements, and the two new elementary schools. An engraved paver will be placed at the Welcome Plaza at Skansie Brothers Park to memorialize his service to the city.

We are actively recruiting a new Principal Planner, along with Parks Manager, Associate Planner, Wastewater Treatment Operator and Police Officer positions. We will also be bringing on three new Police Officers soon, two of which are new positions that we are adding.

Our Public Works staff completed renderings for a new sewer lift station to be located on Ryan Street. The new Lift Station 6 will be a below-ground station with landscaping designed to preserve views and keep in character with the beauty of the neighborhood. We’re hoping to schedule a virtual open house for residents to see and comment on the design in September.

I’m proud to share that Council approved the Community Paddlers Dock Master Agreement with the Jerkovich Family on August 10th.  Harborites and kayak team members will be able to share the use of the existing dock at Jerkovich Pier after we make some modifications and improvements. City staff is working on the design and permitting scope and fee for the Community Paddler’s Dock, and Council will be considering it in September. Construction would be starting next year.

Our 2020-21 Visitors’ Guide is here in print! This year has been one full of twists, turns and surprises, so some dates listed in print have already changed. To address this, we’re also hosting a digital version with regular updates at www.gigharborguide.com, and that will launch early next week. If you’d like a print copy, we’ll have issues available throughout town.

Some news from City Council – they’ll be starting up standing committees again in September. The five committees are: Planning & Building, Public Works, Finance & Safety, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Board & Commission Candidate Review. These meetings will all be conducted remotely, so you can call in and listen. Public comment is not usually taken at these meetings, but recordings will be posted on the City’s website.

Are you interested in who votes on what from the Council side? The City’s website has a pretty great feature called the Council Vote Tracker. It shows how each councilmember voted for each measure and provides a link to the meeting minutes and recording to show the topics discussed. This is a great tool for people who can’t listen in live as it’s available any time. One of our goals has been to increase transparency in how our City government operates, and this is a great way to see your elected officials in action.

The Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce has announced that the 2020 Maritime Gig Event is cancelled due to the surge in COVID-19 cases and state mandates. We respect their decision, and I know it was a difficult call to make. The Maritime Gig is the largest annual Gig Harbor celebration, and usually sees around 10,000-15,000 people over the course of the weekend. We ask you to please join us in continuing to support local businesses, wearing masks and doing our part to make a difference in the community that we love.

A quick reminder on the city level – Harborview, Soundview and Stinson are residential neighborhoods – please remember this, slow down and be respectful of neighborhood safety.

You can also now utilize the Library’s curbside pickup program, by visiting www.curbside.pcls.us for exact hours. With a Pierce County Library card, you can select and place a hold on the books, movies or other items, and the Library will text, email or call when items are available for pick-up. You can reserve a time and arrange a pick-up with contactless service. If you don’t already have a library card, you can get one immediately online at www.piercecountylibrary.org .

The Harbor History Museum also announced alternate plans for their usual fundraising gala this year. They’ll be hosting an online auction from September 17th -19th, culminating in a "live" auction countdown. You can preview the auction site and register to place bids at www.harborhistorymuseum.ejoinme.org/HistoryRocks2020. New items are being added each week. The City is a proud supporter of the history museum, contributing over $30,000 per year in support of free membership and admissions for all.

One last reminder, the Gig Harbor Civic Center is closed to the general public until further notice. Along with many other local cities and government offices, we’ve committed to having much of our staff work remotely until January 2021. We are still carrying out all of the essential services the City provides, and City staff are responsive to any questions or concerns by phone and email.

Stay healthy, and I hope you’re enjoying the outdoors, Gig Harbor –