Apr 09

Mayor's Update: Federal Funding for Transportation Infrastructure Projects - Friday, April 9

Posted on April 9, 2021 at 2:07 PM by Joshua Stecker

Neighbors, friends, and business owners - four crucial transportation infrastructure projects are looming for the City of Gig Harbor and are in line for federal funding under the 2022 Community Project Funding Program.

The Burnham Drive / SR 16 and Wagner / Wollochet projects potentially impact access and safety for our growing community.

To show your support, you can download the templates for letters of support and sign and return to the City for inclusion in the project's support statement. These letters will be reviewed by Congressman Derek Kilmer's office.

You can scan and email your signed support letters to communications@gigharborwa.gov; or fax to 253-851-8563. Letters received before Friday, April 16, 2021 will be included in the City's submission.

Please direct any questions to communications@gigharborwa.gov.

About the Burnham Drive/SR16 Roundabout Metering Project 
This project provides critical transportation improvements for residential and commercial developments, including our regional hospital, St. Anthony's. The roundabout helps to manage future traffic, which is anticipated to reach maximum capacity and traffic volume soon. This project will also help to avoid more costly and disruptive future interchange improvements.

Without this project, congestion will occur from the higher level of traffic, and there is an increased chance of high-speed rear-end collisions for drivers slowing down from the westbound SR16 off-ramp to accommodate stopped traffic and congestion. This project will install an automated but complex traffic management system that has been shown to reduce congestion and improve safety.

SR 16 is one of the major freight corridors in Washington State as well as the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula for commuters and travelers, with a direct connection to Interstate-5. A 2019 corridor study by WSDOT and the Federal Highway Administration made almost 80 improvement recommendations for this stretch. Final design, permitting and construction would happen in 2022.

Download Burnham Drive/SR16 Roundabout Metering Project Support Letter
 
About the Wagner Way/Wollochet Drive Intersection Improvements
With Gig Harbor's significant growth, the last ten years have seen a 59% increase in single-family homes across the entire city, with a good of that growth occurring within a ½ mile of this intersection.

The current intersection doesn't allow for pedestrians or bikers to cross this busy arterial roadway. All of this residential and commercial growth uses this intersection in order to gain access to and from SR-16 and downtown Gig Harbor.

This project would install a traffic signal, pedestrian crossing signal, ADA improvements, street lighting, stormwater treatment, and detention improvements, and connect the new signals to WSDOT's signals at the SR16 intersection and the City’s existing signal at the intersection of Wollochet / Hunt.

This would improve safety, reduce congestion, and improve comfort for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others between these rapidly developing residential and commercial areas and SR-16, downtown, and the Gig Harbor waterfront. Final design, permitting, property acquisition, and construction would happen in 2022.

Download Wagner Way/Wollochet Drive Intersection Improvements Support Letter

About the Gig Harbor 38th Avenue Improvement Project, Phase 2
This project has been listed on the City’s transportation improvement program (TIP) for many years. We are seeking funding under the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) Member Designated Project program.

Currently, residents ride bicycles or walk on narrow dirt paths along the busy 38th Avenue arterial. Residents have been asking for decades to improve safety along this corridor by placing bicycle lanes and sidewalks to connect a residential area to the large commercial area to the east and two public schools to the south. The City is currently improving this corridor to the south up to the two public schools as part of the 38th Avenue Improvement Project, Phase 1A.

Phase 2 would redesign the roadway to add bicycle lanes on both sides, sidewalks on one side, a landscaped buffer next to the sidewalk, curbs, and gutters as necessary, sewer and storm improvements, street illumination, on-street parking where room exists, and turn pockets, as necessary. This is primarily along 56th Street to Hunt Street. This work will use low-impact design for stormwater management to treat stormwater and minimize stormwater runoff.

The project goals are to improve safety and level of comfort for all ages to use non-motorized transportation between the residential areas, commercial areas, and two public schools, and improve walkability and bike-ability in this area.

Download 38th Avenue Improvement Project Phase 2 Support Letter

About the Burnham Drive Improvement Project
Currently, Gig Harbor residents ride bicycles or walk along narrow dirt paths on Burnham Drive, a busy arterial connecting a major residential and commercial district (including a public middle school) to the City’s primary recreational trail that runs through the city, and a highway interchange (SR16).

Through City planning, opportunities have been identified for major improvements to improve non-motorized transportation on this corridor.

The City is currently in the design and permitting process to install a small sub-section of this plan (Phase 1A). This project would occur in 2022 and include a concrete multi-use path for both pedestrians and bicyclists on one side, a landscaped buffer next to the path, curbs, gutters, sewer and storm improvements, street illumination, on-street parking (where room exists), and turn pockets as necessary -- focused on the portion of the road from N. Harborview Drive to Harbor Hill Drive. This work will use low-impact design for stormwater management to treat stormwater and minimize stormwater runoff.

Download Burnham Drive Improvement Project Support Letter

Thanks for your support,

Mayor Kit Kuhn

Mar 24

Mayor’s Update - March 24, 2021

Posted on March 24, 2021 at 1:48 PM by Joshua Stecker

To: The Community of Gig Harbor, a THANK YOU, and some thoughts
 
Being Mayor of Gig Harbor has been an honor and privilege. I care deeply about my hometown. Thank you for electing me and trusting me. I have worked diligently and tirelessly to represent all citizens and the community, from those who more forcefully made their opinions known to those who quietly shared their thoughts. I have sought to retain the spirit, and flavor of our wonderful town as it matures.  Maintaining our heritage and consistent community support through a period of rapid growth, development, and very challenging times has not been easy. I have given my best efforts to represent and be accountable to the 73% majority who elected me and have always given consideration to all who provided input.

Growth is inevitable, and my administration has handled it responsibly.

As a Mayor I provided a Vision with goals and objectives that have improved our city. We have accomplished much including:

  1. Saved the City over $100,000 by serving as the Mayor and City Administrator for 12 months until we found the right City Administrator.
  2. Preserved a 100-year-old forest, at the entrance of our bay. Destined to be clear-cut within six months in office.  Soundview Forest, is now a park preserved forever.
  3. Secured our Court of Law; was in jeopardy of being turned over to Pierce County.
  4. Merged the Planning and Building departments which helped streamline our development process, creating better communication while being solution oriented.
  5. Raised millions in funds, with impact fees and sales tax (with voter approval) to pay for critical road infrastructure our city needs.
  6. Changed our city codes so a developer can’t deviate from the regulations by giving land or money in exchange for bypassing our codes.
  7. Collected on past debts, restructured debt and saving over 1 million dollars each year for emergencies; also received new financial grants.
  8. Freed up public parking downtown that had been encroached on for 15 years
  9. Revised codes to protect our character of life, including regulations on critical wetlands, buffers and clearcutting.
  10. Created a system where employees can be fairly promoted. This improved upon a complicated and subjective system that was leading to a financial disaster for our city.
  11. Implemented written employee policies to replace non written policies that had positioned the city to be at risk and were growing out of control.
  12. Removed the East Bay from our UGA to protect it as rural and keep it from exploitation.
  13. Revamped our Tourism Department and created a grant program to give $125,000. each year to nonprofits for tourism related events.
  14. Improved parks including new parks. Continued building sidewalks and cross walk projects around town.
  15. Secured $100,000 from the Boys and Girls Club earmarked for a Senior Center.
  16. Completed 2.5 million site prep for a new Public Works shop that will be completed by 2022.
  17. Recognized Ancestral Homelands of the Puyallup tribe including naming of an Estuary area and creating educational signage.
  18. Worked with Pierce County Mayors to write the foundation for an interlocal Agreement to create steps for Attainable/ Affordable Housing.
  19. Forgave $588,000. of utility income in 2020 due to the crisis, to help everyone that had a water and sewer bill; first time this has ever been done.
  20. Worked with local, state and federal governments to protect our City and Citizens through an unpresented pandemic, including distribution of funds, forgiveness of loans and assistance to business and citizens.

Not everything we wanted or needed has been accomplished but the city is in a better place. Despite the many successes, challenges lie ahead. We must be cognizant of these challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  1. Growth. This will continue to be a blessing and a threat.  It is imperative to carefully help elected officials know what we the citizens want in our community for growth that is proper and sustainable. Our easily accessible land has greatly diminished. The pressure to build taller or pave critical areas will be strong. Our rural county area is growing all around us with implications to our city and is being challenged each year by the state and county such as “PSRC, PCRC, and GMA “with allowances that could also burden our city.
  2. Special interests groups have access to your governing body. You as citizens must be aware of potential future special arrangements between them and specific members of City Council and Mayor’s office that may not benefit the majority of citizens. Those special group interests create millions of dollars in costs where the greater community might find more benefit in projects that help more than a handful of people. There is only so much money to go around.
  3. The city is financially in good shape. Beware of burdensome costs that can easily become reality through too many capital projects and escalating costs with employee wages and benefits that can bury a city in debt. and I am concerned with this in the future, so the citizens will need to keep and eye on it. We cannot afford to give everything to everybody.

A city’s work is never done. There is so much to accomplish and we all must contribute to be successful. It will be up to others to move the city forward, as I have decided not to seek reelection for the Mayor’s position. I will continue to work diligently as Mayor until my term is up in January.

It is best for the community if many fellow citizens choose to run for Mayor and council. The more citizens that participate in government, the better. It is my belief that a strong Mayor form of government who represent the people is best for our town.

Thank you, Gig Harbor, for the opportunity to represent you the people as your City Mayor.

Mayor Kit Kuhn

Mar 03

Mayor’s Update - March 3, 2021

Posted on March 3, 2021 at 1:53 PM by Joshua Stecker

Good day, Gig Harbor –

 

I hope each of you are healthy and happy. We’ve had our big snow for the winter and our operations staff was successful with their large-scale snow clearing effort.  Kudos to the crew for working 12-hour shifts (noon to midnight and midnight to noon) throughout the storm! I think we’re all glad that Spring is right around the corner.

 

We’re trending down on new COVID cases, and vaccines distribution is picking up. These are good signs, but we’re still not out of the woods. Gig Harbor lost seven people over the last month to COVID. An important point to remember - once vaccinated, you can still pass the virus to unvaccinated parties. Future vaccination events from the Department of Emergency Management and the Health Department. The Health Department has some great options for people who have limited mobility.

 

Back in September, Council adopted Resolution 1198 which recognized “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” and “Native American Heritage Month” and shared the City’s intent to honor the ancestral and traditional lands of the sxwebabc (“swift water people”) band of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. I formed an ad hoc committee of councilmembers, tribal representatives, and others to talk about renaming a City park in honor of the sxwebabc.

 

After a long series of meetings, the ad hoc committee and Parks Commission sent their recommendations to Council. On February 22, Council adopted Resolution 1199 which changes the name of Austin Estuary Park to Austin Park and establishes the designation for the txwaalqel (or “place where there is game” Estuary. The Mayor is authorize, in consultation with the Puyallup Tribe and other entities that support the tribe, to develop and install interpretive signage on city-owned property within the txwaalqel
Estuary Area, and to provide educational information on the city’s website and other avenues.

                                                                                                        

On a similar note, the Peninsula School District board meeting the board voted 5-0 to name elementary school number nine Swift Water Elementary, which is the English translation for the sxwebabc band. I’m very proud that they did this, and it’s a step in the right direction on providing recognition to the full history of our community.

 

Council has authorized the City to pursue a Pierce County Conservation Futures Grant, which we’d use to fund the purchase of an 11.5-acre wooded parcel just north of the Gig Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant.

 

Right now, this land is undeveloped. It has a healthy forest that Donkey Creek passes through, and is a critical Salmon habitat with historical and cultural significance to the Puyallup Tribe and our community. This specific parcel recently had a development pre-application that showed a plan for 34 homes. A housing development would mean degrading a healthy salmon habitat, losing of a great number of trees and a drastic change to this corner of our downtown view basin.

 

The Puyallup Tribe has agreed to provide $50,000 to meet the minimum of 10% in matching funds. The City has agreed to put up another $20,000 and accept the property into our park system, where it will be preserved with the potential for future low-impact trails to give the public access to it. Pierce County will review grant applications later this summer and, if we’re successful, the property purchase would occur next year. There’s a lot of moving parts and this is not a done deal yet,

 

We celebrated Black History Month here in the City of Gig Harbor last month. In recognition, I invited local resident Maurice Hanks to come and speak to Council at our February 8 Council meeting. He shared a powerful presentation showing us many ways that Black History is American History. I encourage you to go and watch our video of the presentation and hear his words for yourself.

 

Council and I also worked together to pass ordinances to keep people safe. These ordinances ban motorized foot scooters from sidewalks, on the Cushman Trail, Harborview Drive, North Harborview Drive, and Olympic Drive (outside of the existing bicycle lanes) or on any roadway with a posted speed limit of greater than 35 MPH. This doesn’t apply to ADA devices.

 

On February 22, Council approved the docket of amendments for our Planning staff to work on for our Comprehensive Plan in 2021 these include:

 

·      Adding a Culture and Arts Element to embrace and encourage the arts in building community and the economy.

·      Conducting a required update to our Shoreline Master Program

·      Creating a public art exception in our Shoreline Master Program to allow to install public art within the shoreline jurisdiction

·      Revisions to our Land Use and Housing elements to allow us to complete some of our 2021 Budget objectives.

 

And, on February 23, we officially opened the new playground at Kenneth Leo Marvin Veterans Memorial Park. This new $250,000 playground is ADA inclusive and a great addition to the neighborhood and our City parks system and was part of the park’s original master plan when created back in 2008. The playground design was a true community effort, students at Discovery Elementary School contributed to the design by learning about what goes into park planning and surveying their school to make the final choice on what structure was installed. We know this will bring joy to those young and young at heart for years to come.

 

We’re also offering a second round of our Lodging Tax grants, which are now open.  These grants are designed to help underwrite events and attractions that bring tourism to Gig Harbor. They’re designed to be utilized by non-profits for operation and marketing of events, or operation of tourism-focused structures. If you know of a group or event that would qualify, check out the application and requirements on our website. You can also email communications@gigharborwa.gov for details

 

For more frequent updates, tune in to our live Q&A sessions every other Friday on our Facebook page, and, on the radio, tune in to KHGP on Wednesdays at 1:00pm. As always, be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.

 

Cheers,

 

Kit