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A Note From Your Mayor


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 –

Cheers,

Kit


Jul 22

Mayor's Update - July 22, 2020

Posted on July 22, 2020 at 5:00 PM by Joshua Stecker

Hello Gig Harbor,

It looks like the sun is out to stay for a while…I hope you’re all having fun in this beautiful weather. This summer is unlike any other, isn’t that the truth? However, we are fortunate to live here in Gig Harbor, where we can enjoy plenty of open spaces safely throughout the season.

In the past week, we’ve heard a number of updates on how to address the spread of COVID on the state level. The Governor paused any counties moving forward until at least July 28. This means Gig Harbor and Pierce County will remain in Phase Two for at least the remainder of the month. The Governor also mentioned the very real possibility of another stay at home order this year, if cases do not slow. We don’t want that.

The numbers for our area continue to rise, up to 103 cases on July 20th from 68 on June 30th.  Pierce County’s 14-day case rate is at 108.6 per 100,000. We had to be below 25 per 100,000 to even move to Phase Two. The rate of transmission is becoming more frequent, and we continue to see more new cases than we have at any point throughout the pandemic.

The state also expanded the public health order requiring mask wearing in public to include a requirement for businesses – patrons are required to wear masks, or the business could lose their business license. Our Gig Harbor Police Department is still trying to educate before they enforce, but they are going to respond to reports of people putting public health at risk.  Be polite, be respectful, and do your part to help us move forward and get back to normal. 

In many counties that had reached Phase Three, the state changed the amount of people that could associate together from 50 down to 10 except for weddings, funerals and religious services.

While we’re stuck in Phase Two, supporting our local businesses is more important than ever. Last week, we announced the 111 businesses that we were able to support through the city’s Small Business Stabilization Grants. I want to thank Council and our staff for mobilizing quickly to get CARES Act funds in the hands of the City’s small businesses. I’m proud to report that each business received $2774.77.

We are also helping to support Band Together: The Small Business Relief Concert Series, which is a virtual COVID relief effort designed to both raise funds to help support and to highlight local businesses struggling through the impacts of the pandemic. You can log in from home, enjoy these online performances, and order in from one of Gig Harbor’s restaurants. Donations can be made to the Band Together Fund, part of the Peninsula COVID-19 Community Emergency Relief Fund, to help  provide grants to locally owned small businesses impacted by COVID. You can find more information on their website, at www.ghkpbandtogether.org.

From July 20 forward, these concerts will be broadcast from a private location with no audience – meaning the only way to view them is from the safety of your home. This is to comply with the state directive banning live entertainment indoors and outdoors.

The Civic Center will continue to remain closed to the public until at least August 3rd, but our staff and Council are still hard at work keeping the City running.

At the July 13th City Council Meeting, Council approved the City to move forward with a new $250,000 playground installation at Veteran’s Memorial Park. This new playground will be ADA inclusive and a great addition to the neighborhood and our City parks system. The playground design was a true community effort, we thank the students at Discovery Elementary School for jumping in with their planning ideas!

The new playground plan was brought together by Parks Manager Nicole Jones-Vogel, who recently announced she’s moving on from working for the City. Nicole has been very instrumental in moving forward many park projects in her time here. We wish her well in her new endeavors.

After the 4th of July, Council and I heard from many of you about potentially requesting changes to the laws for fireworks. We know people love being able to set off fireworks here in town, but some prefer to see (and hear) fireworks only on the 4th. Others would like to see fireworks banned completely.

Several years ago, the city allowed eight days allowed for fireworks and then council changed it to four days. Currently, city residents can shoot off fireworks between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. on July 1st through July 3rd, and between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and midnight on July 4th. Council will be looking at changing these restrictions in October and we’ll be reaching out to you for your comments then. Any changes will not go into effect until July 2022.

 

Last week Council received the 2019 Washington State Crime Report. Overall crime in Washington state went down in 2019 according to the report released by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC).  The annual report tracks crime and arrest data from contributing law enforcement agencies throughout Washington.  In Gig Harbor, serious crimes were down 8.9% from 2018. Most of our crimes are against property (retail store theft) which is our largest issue. Our town is quite small, roughly a mile wide and seven miles long.

For those of you that have been tuning in to my Facebook Live Q&A Sessions, I’ve changed those to once a week, on Fridays at 10:00am. They have been very popular with over 3,000 viewers tuning in each week.

People have enjoyed being kept up to date, and I’ve enjoyed having direct conversations with citizens, businesses and the guest speakers we’ve welcomed to answer some of your more specialized questions.

Now, we’re taking it more on the road -- two weeks ago, we visited Bella Kitchen to report from the city there and hear about her store. Last week, we went to two other businesses as we will do again tomorrow. Later, we will also be visiting parks, nonprofits and many great areas around town to report from. We are here for you, our citizens and community, to listen, report and help guide our city to continue to be one of the best in the nation.

Stay healthy out there, be kind to one another, and remember to wear your mask!

Cheers,

Kit

Jun 29

Mayor’s Update - June 29, 2020

Posted on June 29, 2020 at 4:14 PM by Joshua Stecker

Hello Gig Harbor,

I hope you’re all happy and healthy and enjoying the beginning of summer here in our beautiful city.

These past few months have been a time of incredible change in the world. On June 10th, I joined in with hundreds of you for a peaceful walk in unity in support of equal treatment for all, and to express solidarity with black Americans. Many councilmembers and other local leaders joined in as well. To honor the day, the City Council and I issued a proclamation declaring June 10th as “Stand Against Racism Day” in Gig Harbor to encourage all of us to fight against racism whenever and wherever it may occur. We will continue to work at ways to show equal opportunities for all.

We are now well into Phase Two of the Governor’s “Safe Start” plan to address the spread of COVID-19. Many businesses and restaurants have been able to reopen on a limited basis and churches are starting to hold limited services again. City employees are starting to come back to work in the office as we prepare to reopen the Civic Center to the public in Phase Three.

The earliest Pierce County could move to Phase Three would have been June 29th, but across the state and the county we have seen COVID-19 cases exponentially increase, with the transmission rates surpassing the amounts needed to transition from Phase One to Phase Two. The Tacoma--Pierce County Health Department has indicated we are in no way ready for Phase Three, and the County will not apply. A modified Phase 2.5 is possible. Our County Health Department is encouraging all residents to follow the guidelines and help slow the spread so we can move forward responsibly.

To try to slow the spread down, the State Department of Health has issued a public health order requiring face coverings be worn in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices and restaurants. The order also requires face coverings outdoors when you can't stay six feet apart from others. There are exemptions, including people with certain disabilities or health conditions, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and children under the age of 5 (though it’s encouraged to have children ages 3-5 wear a covering if possible). Businesses are also offering alternate formats for those not able to wear a mask, including curbside pickup or online ordering and delivery of items. Our Police Department is asking for voluntary compliance with the order. We’ll respond to cases of willful and reckless disregard for public safety, but our approach will be to educate before we enforce penalties.  It is not so much as what the state asks us to do but what the health department through proven science says to do. This virus kills and face masks are the simplest way to stop the spread with the least amount of work.

I know some say it is my public right to do whatever I want. Well I say to those it is also your public right and responsibility to help protect others from actions you may cause. To value others and care as a whole for the health of our community and fellow neighbors. So please, wear your face mask when around others and out with the public.

On the Federal level, the Governor addressed the US House to encourage them to pass the HEROES Act, which would provide state and local aid. Washington would receive $10.7 billion in state funds for recovery, with an additional $1 billion floating down to local governments, like cities. Without those funds, we can anticipate major cuts to services on the state level.  70% of Washington’s current budget is protected by state law, meaning officials can only cut from the other 30%. Unprotected spending items include higher education, corrections, many human services, and natural resources.

Here at the city, staff has processed the applications for our Small Business Stabilization Grants. We had 111 qualified applicants, meaning each business will get approximately $2775, over $1,200. more than the expected minimum of at least $1500. The money to fund these grants is coming from the federal government CARES Act. I’m thankful for the work of our staff and council to get these funds in the hands of our local businesses quickly and with a fair and balanced approach.

On June 5th, I issued a proclamation temporarily suspending certain Special Use regulations and Encroachment Permit fees. This means businesses have fewer costs and barriers in holding sidewalk sales and other outdoor sales on private property and within the public Right-of-Way. We took this on to give local businesses more bandwidth to re-open, be creative and be able to sell products in more ways during the “Safe Start” phases.  The businesses still need to apply as they still need to show proof of insurance.

On June 19th, I rang the bell to re-open the Gig Harbor Waterfront Farmer’s Market. I was able to buy coffee, cherries, beans and sausages – I was impressed at the social distancing and mask-wearing I saw, and proud of our businesses, our citizens and the Downtown Waterfront Association for making this happen – there are some experiences that really make it feel like summer in Gig Harbor, and the Farmer’s Market is one of them.

We are moving forward with plans for bringing back the Gig Harbor Trolley, in partnership with Pierce Transit. We’ll see heightened cleaning and sanitation measures on the Trolley in order to make this happen. This will re-launch in Phase Four, as will Summer Sounds at Skansie and Movies in the Park. We want to retain some sense of normalcy this summer, and we’ve hesitated to cancel these much-loved events and features, but we’re tied to the public health directive in order to keep Gig Harbor safe.


Last week, we also dedicated a new plaque on the Bogue Viewing Platform in the Finholm Marketplace area. It honors two local mountaineers, Marty Hoey and Luther Jerstad, who climbed Mt. Everest and many other peaks. Take a moment to read their story when you walk by. On a clear day, you’ll be able to look out to Mt. Rainier when you visit! This plaque and another are now ADA accessible.

At our Council meeting on June 8th, I proclaimed the month of June as Orca Action Month for the City. Southern Resident Orcas were declared an endangered species in 2005. Efforts are underway to restore our local orca population and I encourage everyone to learn more about their troubles and how we can help out.

City Council came to terms Monday night on a Memorandum of Understanding with the Jerkovich Family to modify their existing pier at Ancich Park so the public can use it to launch their kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. If all goes well, construction will start in June 2021, and be completed by August 2021. This will save the view corridor and a considerable amount of money.

On June 22, Council adopted a new six-year Transportation Improvement
Program (TIP). The TIP lists 28 transportation projects that the City has identified as priorities in the near future. This document is approved each year by the Council and forwarded to the state to be able to move forward with these projects. 

The State Department of Ecology has let us know they intend to start imposing nutrient loading limits on wastewater treatment plants. The City’s treatment plant has received many recent upgrades and improvements recently, but more capital improvements may be required or the City may have to stop issuing capacity reservation certificates and/or consider resolutions or ordinances that limit reservation certificates in our Urban Growth Area. City staff is continuing to work with our lobbyists to oppose these limits.

As you can see, even though we’re still adapting to the changing nature of COVID and the Safe Start restrictions, we’re still active in serving the city, planning for the future, and working to make sure our economic recovery remains in forward motion.

One of Washington States rules for Mayors is as follows: To protect health, safety and welfare of the community and its residents, businesses and visitors. I will continue to work to do this, as you need your health first to be able to succeed.

Stay healthy out there and be kind to each other.

Cheers,

Kit