Nov 19

Mayor’s Update - November 19, 2020

Posted on November 19, 2020 at 3:07 PM by Joshua Stecker

Hello Gig Harbor,

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday, I’m wishing good health to each of you and your families. We were all feeling a bit more hopeful with some easing of restrictions and more businesses starting to open, and then the COVID numbers climbed after various holidays and gatherings. Now we are having to reverse course.

These are difficult times for us. In the past month we’ve seen our COVID cases quadruple. This is the time we want to be visiting our loved ones for the holidays, but this year will be quite different.  We need to limit our personal contact in order to get through this.  

Governor Inslee has announced updated restrictions that began this week as part of the Safe Start public health order. You can find a summary of these restrictions here. In addition, the Governor has issued a travel advisory for Washington State, recommending a 14-day quarantine for interstate and international travel, while also asking residents to stay close to home and limit non-essential travel.

The City remains committed to taking the appropriate steps to ensure the safety of our community - I ask you to comply voluntarily with these restrictions to get past this quarantine period as quickly as we can. Although city staff will not be actively looking for violations of the Governor’s order, we hope every citizen and business owner will follow the state directive to do our part to contain the spread of COVID.

I am concerned our hospitals will become overburdened and be filled so that others who need surgery or other care will be turned away or delayed. Wearing masks at this time is critical for everyone’s safety and health.

We realize that these restrictions come with great inconvenience and hardships, particularly to our business community.  By following the guidance provided, we can ensure a path to a faster reopening and the safety of our citizens. Please join me in following these restrictions for the health of our community.

Pierce County has scheduled a free local COVID mobile testing station on Friday, November 20th from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM in the Gig Harbor High School (5101 Rosedale St NW) parking lot. These tests are free, and results are available in five to seven days. There will be flu shots available at this location, also free to all.

Early on in the pandemic, we passed an emergency ordinance to make it easier for restaurants and businesses to have outdoor dining and sidewalk sales. It also waived the fee for these permits. Council is supportive of extending it throughout the COVID-19 crisis as this ordinance is set to expire on December 31. This coming Monday, November 23, Council will vote to extend this ordinance. Recently I asked Council to show its interest in extending the ordinance and the majority indicated yes.

As we finalize the 2021 budget, we’re being very cautious about predicting how much revenue we’ll bring in next year. Our sales tax reports for 2020 so far show that the City hasn’t seen a loss in revenue from the COVID-19 shutdowns, but we still don’t know what the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19 will be. Council will be reviewing the budget at a public hearing on November 23.

At the last Council meeting, we heard a report from David Fleckenstein, Chair of the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC), on the research being done to solve the need for more airline capacity for western Washington in the future. They have the difficult job of finding a place to build a new airport or possibly expand existing smaller airports. Tacoma Narrows Airport is one location they have identified as a possibility, even though they openly acknowledge the site has several deficiencies.

On October 26, Council adopted a resolution that stated we are opposed to any large-scale expansion of the Tacoma Narrows Airport. Last week I sent a letter to the CACC, PSRC (Puget Sound Regional Council) and our state and federal representatives to make our position clear: Gig Harbor cannot accommodate expansion of the airport in our backyard. I will be working with Pierce County (the airport’s owner – the site is outside of city limits) to make sure they continue to oppose expanding the airport. On Monday’s November 23 council meeting we’ll hear a briefing from Josh Brown from PSRC in regard to the airport.

PSRC was set to wrap up their two-year report with public comment by November 5. I requested an extension based on the lack of outreach and involvement of our city and community until the last moment. They have now given us an extension until January 13, 2021 for our city and the community to comment. We urge everyone to do so. 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.

On November 9, Council approved moving forward with a project to build a shared multi-use pathway for non-motorized traffic along Burnham Drive (between Harbor Hill Drive and Harborview Drive). We have been hearing from many of you how important it is to have a safe way to walk and bike between neighborhoods.

The City is now using a new webinar platform that allows residents to join City Council meetings live and provide public comments in person. You can use the “raise hand” feature to let us know when you want to address the Council during appropriate times for public comment. I encourage all of you to log on and let us know your thoughts during these upcoming meetings.

Again, I wish each of you have a safe, warm and healthy Holiday. Happy Thanksgiving and remember to be kind to each other.

Cheers,

Kit

Nov 02

Mayor’s Update - October 30, 2020

Posted on November 2, 2020 at 3:51 PM by Joshua Stecker

Hello Gig Harbor,

 

There is no doubt about it – summer is a distant memory and fall is here now. The holidays are right around the corner. I hope you will all be able to connect with your families and enjoy this time of year.

With the new season, we face many of the same challenges that the pandemic gave us in spring and summer. The COVID-19 case rate in Pierce County jumped this past week to 114.4 per 100,000 over a 14-day span - almost double where we were one month ago. In order to move to Phase 3 we have to have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people per 14 days. We must keep wearing our masks and remembering to keep social distancing to reach our goal.

Statewide, we recently passed 100,000 total cases of COVID-19 with 2,384 reported deaths so far. The Department of Health says we are in the middle of a “third surge of cases” that started after Labor Day. They predict this surge will keep rising into January and February with the cold weather. It is more important than ever that we keep our guard up.

The Pierce County COVID-19 Testing Trailer will be back on November 20 and December 18 at Gig Harbor High School. Testing is free to all and no symptoms need to be present to have a test administered. 

Halloween is this weekend and the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health has issued recommendations to help keep everyone safe. If you are going to be out with others to celebrate the holiday, you’re strongly encouraged to socially distance, wear your face mask, wash your hands frequently and be safe.

Election Day is Tuesday next week. I feel it is very important for everyone that can vote to do so. Your vote does count, and it has been proven in the past when the election numbers are very close. It is your right to vote and we live in a great country where we have rights as citizens.

The Downtown Waterfront Alliance is producing a new video series called “Treasures on the Waterfront.”  It features their Promotions Chair Karrie Polinsky as she discovers many of the treasures of downtown, the businesses, the people and the places.  They have released three of these videos and plan to do many more to draw attention to our downtown.  I’d like to encourage you to watch them, and if you are Facebook savvy, please share them.  The more that see them the better.  These are wonderful stories, fun, informative and in some cases heartwarming - Karrie just naturally brings this all to the surface as she visits downtown businesses.  A link to the Treasures videos will be posted in the comments.

November is all about the budget here at the Civic Center. My 2021 preliminary budget is now available online. We’ve worked hard to make sure that we continue to provide the services the city requires and to make sure all our projects keep moving forward. I will be continuing to support our non-profits and our lodging tax (LTAC) grants. In our General Fund I will continue to support the Senior Center, Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance, and the Harbor History Museum.

We’re being very cautious about predicting how much revenue we’ll bring in next year. We still don’t know what the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19 will be. Council will be reviewing the budget over five meetings in November and December, including two public hearings, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to weigh in on how you think we should spend our money.

At our November 9 meeting we will be rolling out a new webinar platform that will allow residents to join the meeting live and give public comments in person. I encourage all of you to log on and let us know your thoughts on the budget and other matters.

The police department is in the latter stages of the hiring process of two of the three vacant police officer positions.  We hope to be able to issue offers of employment to two exceptional candidates very soon.  We have reopened our recruitment to attract other applicants and intend to hold interviews in mid-November to fill the third open position.

When Council first approved of the Ancich Waterfront Park project the main goal was to provide dock access and moorage facilities for both small, human powered crafts and commercial fishermen. While design and permitting for the human powered craft dock is well underway, configuration of a commercial fishing Homeport has yet to be established. A Commercial Fishing Homeport Feasibility Study has been completed to provide economic analysis and community opinions for the layout of the proposed Homeport facility.  We are hoping to have an online meeting with the homeport stakeholders and the City Council in December to start working on a path forward to complete the homeport.

Another major project that the City will soon be starting is the sidewalk and/or bike path along Burnham Drive between Harbor Hill Drive and Harborview Drive. This corridor connects Gig Harbor North to our downtown waterfront, and we’ve been hearing from many of you how important it is to have a safe way to walk and bike between the two neighborhoods. Council is reviewing different alternatives including a sidewalk and bike lane or a shared multi-use pathway for all non-motorized traffic.

Council will be looking at these alternatives at their November 9 City Council meeting and if you’re interested in weighing in on the bike path and sidewalk designs, we want to hear from you at this meeting. We’ll be posting the design alternatives for this project on our website very soon.

The Public Works Operations Division has completed the Scotch broom removal from the storm pond at the intersection of Harbor Hill Drive and Burnham Drive. New landscaping will be going in there that consists of smaller trees and other native vegetation, which have a better chance of success and provide more plants for the same amount of money.  This work will require Operations Staff to provide water bags or other irrigation methods beginning spring 2021.

The City has adopted its 2021 Legislative Agenda to tell 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.


The lack of attainable housing and growing homelessness are issues that are facing us here in Gig Harbor and all over Pierce County. I’ve been working with a group of Pierce County mayors over the past two years to try to brainstorm ideas for ways the city can help with these issues. This group is now called the South Sound Housing Affordability Partners (SSHAP) and together we’ve put together a letter to send to our legislators asking for action on several issues:

  • Provide the option to offer the Multi-family Tax Exemption in all cities and towns and appropriate county urban growth areas.
  • Provide robust resources for rent, foreclosure-prevention, and utility assistance.
  • Preserve and Fund the Housing Trust Fund.
  • Authorize a local option for graduated Real Estate Excise Tax.


These are only options/tools that our city could use and are not to be adopted in our City Code. They are statewide options that could be looked at case-by-case. An overwhelming majority of the City Council has given their support. Hopefully soon we will begin to see some change coming out of Olympia to help with this problem.

The City has authorized Gig Harbor Rotary North to go out and look for suitable partners to set up a Sister City program for Gig Harbor. They’ve already been in contact with towns in Croatia and Norway and they’ll be working with all three Rotary clubs to develop a program that will promote our community and open up opportunities for Gig Harbor residents to see how people live in other parts of the world. We look forward to hearing back from them when they find the right match for us.

As always, please stay safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.

Cheers,

Kit

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.

Cheers,

Kit