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A Note From Your Mayor


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.

Cheers,

Kit

 

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