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Feb 05

Mayor's Update - January 29, 2020

Posted on February 5, 2020 at 8:10 AM by Joshua Stecker

Welcome Everyone to 2020

I hope everyone was able to enjoy their holiday season. We are in a new decade, a new chapter here at the City.  We welcomed the new year with our new City Administrator, Bob Larson. I have been filling a double role as acting City Administrator and Mayor since June, and I am excited to have Bob onboard so I can step back from a few things and focus on our City’s vision. Bob was selected in October, but it took some time to make the transition. He came to us from the City of Snoqualmie where he served as the City Administrator for 15 years and has additional experience in his home state of Minnesota. His experience is already proving to meet our challenges and we look forward to having him help guide our City’s future. Please give Bob a warm welcome to our city.

To recap a bit of the highlights of our busy 2019 they include:

  • South Sound Magazine named Gig Harbor the “Best City in the South Sound” for 2019!
  • We completed the transition of having our Planning Department and our Building Department under the leadership of a Community Development Director. This has made it much easier for customers and developers to understand and work with the city. The staff of the combined department are working together much better.
  • We formed a Small Cell Advisory Board to give recommendations to staff and Council on how to keep residents aware of what’s going on with the coming 5G installations.
  • Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings (“S&P”) upgraded the City’s water and sewer utility revenue bonds to AA with a Stable Outlook. With this upgrade, the City is the highest rated utility provider in Pierce County.
  • Council has adopted new policies related to personnel overnight travel, social media posts, and employee conduct. We will continue to advance other policies where changes become necessary.
  • A Tourism Advisory Committee made up of stakeholders in the community was formed this past spring to give guidance and direction on the future goals of our Tourism & Communications Department. The committee’s collective expertise, involvement, and extensive knowledge of Gig Harbor could best help guide the direction of our tourism and marketing department moving forward.
  • Site preparation work has begun on our new Operations Shop. Our Public Works crews have long been in need of a new home and we will be moving this project forward in 2020.
  • The City received almost $1 million in grant funds last year that went toward completing the Harbor Hill Drive Extension Project, planning for Phase 5 of the Cushman Trail, and the planning and design of the 38th Avenue project.
  • The City has been awarded the Outstanding Wastewater Treatment Plant Award from the Washington State Department of Ecology for the 12th time in 14 years.
  • Construction of the Ancich Waterfront Park boat storage facility was completed.
  • We removed the tall hedges along the front of the Skansie Visitors Center house and added beautiful new flower beds and landscaping. The sidewalk there is also 2 feet wider with a decorative stamped red brick and is now ADA compliant with the driveway into the pavilion. The driveway is narrower now but also has the decorative brick on each side.
  • An MOU was signed with the YMCA on Phase 1 of the Gig Harbor Sports Complex. We will be partnering with the YMCA to begin construction of the first two fields and parking lots soon.
  • The recently purchased property at Soundview and Harborview was officially named “Soundview Forest Park.” Trails have been installed and volunteers contributed many hours to cleaning up the new park.
  • Residents passed the Transportation Benefit District “TBD” Proposition #1 to help fund solutions. This allows our city to raise the sales tax two tenths of a percent to 8.7% for our road improvements. This will only amount to 20 cents per $100 and will remain one of the lowest sales taxes within the Puget Sound Region. This will allow our city to raise roughly $16 million over the next 10 years for new construction of roads and traffic improvements.

I’d like to welcome our new Councilmembers Tracie Markley, Robyn Denson and Le Rodenberg. All three were sworn in before the January 13th City Council meeting. January 13th was also the first meeting for our new City Administrator, Bob Larson.

At the meeting on January 13th, Council reversed course and directed the City to go forward with installing a roundabout at the intersection of Harborview and Stinson. This change may delay the project slightly, but we are still hopeful to get it completed on schedule.

The City issued proclamations declaring the month of January as Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month and January 26 - February 1 as School Choice Week and National Catholic Schools Week.

Our Engineers are currently working on design for the 1st phase of improvements to 38th Street. These long-awaited improvements will provide a bike lane and sidewalk from Goodman Middle School up to Briarwood Lane. We have wanted sidewalks on this street since my daughter was in elementary school near here and now, she is 25, I am glad we are making it a reality.

Council held an all-day retreat on January 17th where we laid out our goals for 2020. Several items were added to our list, including studying the feasibility of turning Judson into a one-way street, developing a City-wide plan for flashing crosswalks, creating a vision for Soundview Forest Park, developing rules for parking on City right-of-way, and researching sustainability issues.

Council also decided to move forward with dissolving all of their council-only committees. Instead of discussing items at the committee level, Council intends to hold regular study sessions where they get better understanding of the issues as a whole body and where there is better transparency for the public.

We’ve extended our contract for legal services with Ogden Murphy Wallace through May of 2021. We just advertised to hire a full-time in-house City Attorney. Interviews are underway to hire a new IT Manager and a new Tourism & Communications Director. Filling these positions will help bring our staff back up to full strength. I’d also like to welcome our newest employees, Building Inspector Sean Brady and Maintenance Technicians Derrick Moore and Peter Frontiero.

On January 27th, Council formally enacted an Ordinance giving the citizens of Gig Harbor the power of initiative and referendum. The power of initiative is used to propose new ordinances and the power of referendum is

used to review previously adopted ordinances. Citizens can use these powers by collecting signatures on a petition and bring it before Council.

At the meeting on the 27th Council also agreed to move forward with funding the design and construction of a human-powered watercraft float off of the Jerkovich Pier at Ancich Waterfront Park as shown on the original designs for the park. This was budgeted to be built from the Ancich Pier, but Council directed the City to use additional funds from the General Fund, Park Impact Fees, and Lodging Tax to make the change possible. Construction is also dependent on the completion of a contract with the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team for a contribution of $500,000. We had proposed this last July with much of the funding shown and there was no council support. I am happy we have council support now and are moving forward towards water access to the park.

I am excited about this year and the ability to work on some new projects. Having Bob Larson here will free some of my day-to-day obligations to pursue our vision, much of which is in our 2020 budget. My Mayor's Message in our 2020 budget describes some of those goals.