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A Note From Your Mayor

Dec 20

Mayor's Update - December 20, 2018

Posted on December 20, 2018 at 3:46 PM by Joshua Stecker

Holiday Greetings friends and citizens of Gig Harbor!

Much is happening around the City:

  • On December 10th, Building Official Paul Rice officially awarded the City a Certificate of Occupancy for the Civic Center building. City staff have been diligently working toward completing every item and task up to the highest standard. With the planting of a the last few trees, the Civic Center is now officially complete.

  • In my last blog post, I wrote about my decision to veto Council’s initial adoption of Ordinance 1401 raising the transportation impact fees. Council discussed the fees and projects further at their December 10th meeting and adopted my recommended removal of two projects (#10 the Hunt Street Crossing project and #12 the roundabout that might be considered associated with #10). The new TIF rate of $5,071.44 is much more equitable and allows the City to move forward with the planning for many needed transportation projects.

  • We have received many great name suggestions for the new forest park on Soundview and Harborview. The Parks Commission will be reviewing the suggestions and making recommendation to Council in the near future. We’re also looking at adding exciting new features to the park like benches and even a gazebo.

  • We are excited to announce that Katrina Knutson has been hired to fill the Community Development Director position. Katrina has spent the past three years as the City’s Parks Manager and has recently been serving as the interim Planning Director since Jennifer Kester left the City. It has been my vision even before I was elected to combine the building and planning departments under one director. I have studied cities that have Community Development Directors and our city also had done this for over six years at one time. After I took office I spent time observing and studying the departments. That convinced me it was the best decision to go this direction and that I should move forward with my plan. One of the most important aspects of my vision was to find the right person. After a thorough search and extensive studying of the candidates there was a clear choice that Katrina Knutson is that person.

  • The City is also working through the process of filling the City Engineer and Human Resource Assistant positions.

  • I am happy to say that the City Council and myself supported having the Nativity scene back at Skansie Park under the tree. It had been a part of our traditional holiday display with other secular items for over 12 years.

  • At our last Council meeting we did pass a motion to deed land to our local food bank FISH. This had taken several years of work. I wish to thank Pierce Transit, Derek Kilmer, Council, our Public Works Staff and FISH for helping to make this possible. There were many challenges that had to be overcome for this to be a reality for FISH to build a new food bank building to serve our community.

  • The monthly Coffee with Kit meetup has been cancelled for January. The next session will be on Tuesday, February 5th, at 7:00 a.m. at the Kimball Coffeehouse.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday season.

Dec 07

Mayor's Update - December 7, 2018

Posted on December 7, 2018 at 9:21 AM by Joshua Stecker

Greetings friends and citizens of Gig Harbor. I have been troubled by Ordinance 1401 that council passed at the last council meeting. This relates to Traffic Impact Fees that developers pay when they build. We had not updated our fee structure for over 10 years. Meanwhile we are not getting the necessary funding for our roads and traffic. Our current rate per dwelling is roughly $2100.

An extensive study allowed us to raise it past $10,500. Some councilmembers wanted the fee very high while some wanted it very low. Other councilmembers wanted a balance that would provide funding while still allowing growth and a fair price. This is what I was hoping for as well. But for odd reasons the council voted for roughly $2800 - which will not even come close to solving the needs for our city and citizens.

As a result, I am vetoing the Ordinance (under the authority of RCW 35A.12.100) and bringing it back to council for the December 10th meeting with the hope that they will make the amount $5071.44 which will strike the balance many were working towards.

I am doing this for a couple of important reasons.  The first is that several councilmembers and I were elected to find ways to solve the City’s traffic problems. Thousands of voters asked for this.  I feel most of the Council was elected to financially try to solve our traffic needs. We do not have a separate road and traffic fund to pay for even $50 million or half of the projects listed in our TIF. The money is just not there. How can we match state funds when there isn’t the seed money there to match?  The Transportation Benefit District proposed to raise $16 million by increasing the sales tax by 0.2%, but it failed by less than 50 votes. We have to show our whole community that we are going to make our TIF projects concurrent with the growth and not when it is past the time to deal with it.  The TIF’s project list hasn’t been updated in over 10 years since 2007.

I started researching this before I was elected and found that the City did not have an adequate financial plan to pay for the needed transportation improvements.  This was a campaign promise to deal with our needs and not ignore it and have our community suffer.  It is what our supporters called for. Also, we are not a large city.  Traffic from everything that is built in our region affects our roads, including growth that comes in from surrounding communities.  We cannot divide our road projects into districts.

During 2017 and 2018, Council, staff, the public and I developed a defensible TIF project list to improve traffic now, as well as prevent gridlock in the future.  That said, the disagreement over the TIF project list led to an impasse at the last Council meeting. 

This leads me to the second reason I have decided to veto this ordinance.  I believe this impasse caused our Council to make a rash decision that was not fully thought out and resulted in an impact fee that would do little to fund the needed projects to ensure a functional transportation system. If I do not veto this and we don’t come up with a fair balance, we will lose millions of dollars that could have funded our roads. Much of the property that would fund these projects will be forever gone because it will already be constructed without the adequate fees to support our roads. Too little, too late.

Councilmember Himes did extensive research on the project list and made a valid argument for the removal of the Hunt Street crossing project from the TIF list.  I directed staff to review Councilmember Himes’ assessment and they concur that the project could be removed from the TIF list. When Council reconsiders the TIF after my veto, my recommendation is that council remove #10 the Hunt Street Crossing project and #12 the roundabout that might be considered associated with #10. By doing this the City would focus on the most immediate projects first while cutting the TIF almost in half from the original proposal. Instead of the original $93,625,000 it brings the project total down to $52,475,000. This would result in an impact fee that is both reasonable and could provide adequate funding for the remaining projects.  With removal of the Hunt project and the roundabout the new TIF would be $5,071.44. Months ago, a major developer in Gig Harbor even told me they could build and live with $5,500 - and this is less. Building will still occur, don’t be fooled into thinking that we will come to a halt. I hope council compromises from the extremes that have been proposed on both ends and approves a balanced TIF. We followed through with our 6-month moratorium and were responsible. Let’s wrap up 2018 showing this community that we are united and not in gridlock; that we are working to find the balance that we were elected to do. I feel the citizens will be proud of the Council for doing this.

Council has three proposed options for action at the December 10th meeting:

  • Override.  If on reconsideration a majority plus one of the whole membership of the council (5 councilmembers) vote in favor of Ordinance No. 1401, effectively overriding the veto, the ordinance will stand. 

  • Adopt amended ordinance.  Alternatively, on reconsideration of the original motion, any councilmember may move to amend the motion to adopt Ordinance No. 1401 with a revised the project list. 

  • No action.  Should the council not take action to override or amend, the veto will stand and the process for adopting a new transportation impact fee ordinance will come back to the City Council in 2019.

Please know that I do not take this action lightly and know its impact on Council and staff.  However, I was elected to do what is best for all citizens for Gig Harbor, and I believe this is what is best.

Dec 04

Mayor's Update - December 4, 2018

Posted on December 4, 2018 at 5:23 PM by Joshua Stecker

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for many things; among them the wonderful place where we live, my family, and my many friends. Time goes by quickly and a lot has happened since my last post.

It is December now and Gig Harbor just had their traditional tree lighting last Saturday down at Skansie park. I would like to thank all of the community groups who helped make this event a success with over 1,000 people joining in the holiday festivities. The evening started with caroling, and then Santa arrived by fire engine to help us count down for the tree lighting. Skansie Netshed was open where cookies and cocoa were served courtesy of the Downtown Waterfront Alliance. It was great to see Santa listening to kids’ wishes, with elves helping him out. Harbor WildWatch had an underwater night dive with a featured live video on a screen explaining all that they were observing. Thank you to all those that helped make it a great evening.

A special thanks to our Public Works department that has decorated our City so well.

Recapping some of the issues from our past council meetings:

  • We hope to deed over the land to FISH, our food bank at the Dec. 10th council meeting. The deed had to be finetuned from the Oct. 13th meeting.
  • Our Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) received an Outstanding Performance Award for 2017 for no spills and hiccups for 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. This is not an easy award to achieve with hundreds of miles of collection system. Congratulations and thanks to the WWTP employees for all they do!
  • Council passed a six-month extension to the city sign code until May of 2019 to have more time to study it and make sure it’s what the City needs.
  • Steve Misiurak, our City Engineer of 19 years, is moving back to B.C.  His last day was December 3rd. We appreciate his dedication and hard work.
  • We would like to welcome two new Police Officers to our City. Officer Barber comes from Kansas and Officer Raphael is local and comes to us from Tumwater.
  • We will be re-evaluating our Marketing/Tourism department since the departure of our Tourism Director. I’d like to thank Mimi Jansen who has stepped in as our Interim Tourism Director and is doing a great job.

Last month City Council passed the 2019 Budget that staff, City Council and I had worked so hard on.  We are here for our citizens and working through several issues at the council meetings. Wishing everyone a great December!