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Mar 06

Mayor's Update - March 5, 2020

Posted on March 6, 2020 at 10:28 AM by Joshua Stecker

Good Day to Everyone,


March is here, and daylight savings time is this coming weekend. Which means more daylight in the morning and evening, which I am sure we all have been looking forward to.


I was able to get away a bit last month to New Zealand and am thrilled at the way Bob Larson, our City Administrator, ran the City in my absence. We are very fortunate to have Bob, and now I have a bit more time to focus on projects while he helps run the day to day operations.


Below, I want to share some highlights and updates from our last couple of council meetings. In February, Council authorized an amendment to the City budget to allow $700,000 to build a float off of Jerkovich Pier at our new Ancich Waterfront Park. This money, combined with a $500,000 contribution from the Gig Harbor Canoe & Kayak Race Team, will allow us to build a new float system for launching canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. City staff are working with the race team to come to an agreement on the rest of the funding before the end of March. If Council passes the finance mechanism and everything falls into place, we may be able to complete construction this year. There are still a lot of questions, work to be done, and dollars to be allocated for this to happen.


The Parks Division continues to be exceedingly busy with park development, planning, feasibility studies. Recently, we have been working with students at Discovery Elementary School as we consider new playground equipment for 5 – to 12-year-olds. 

This project was funded by the City Council in the 2020 Budget to achieve goals set in the 2007 Master Plan for Veterans Memorial Park. The students met at the park for a field trip with the family of Kenneth Leo Marvin whom the park is dedicated to, Parks Commissioners, a councilmember, and city staff to discuss and learn the various considerations that need to be taken into account when preparing for the development of a park property. The students were eager to be involved, and their teachers were exceptional partners in this community-building endeavor. You can read (and watch) more about that effort here. Thanks to Nicole, our Parks Manager, and the Park Commission for making this happen.


I would like to recognize Terry Lee for his financial contribution towards finishing the Cushman Trail Emergency Locator Signage project that will expand upon the recently installed posts to a frequency of every 1/8 of a mile. This increase in frequency meets safety goals as identified by the community and industry standards. I would also like to recognize PenMet Parks for their partnership, both in funding and generally, on this effort to ensure consistency across the entire length of the Cushman Trail. We can achieve great things with our community and our community partners – safety on the Cushman Trail is an important City goal, and we are pleased to provide this amenity on our popular regional trail.


Please mark your calendar for Parks Appreciation Day Saturday, April 25, from 9 am to noon. The event is scheduled in conjunction with our area partners and will be held for interested volunteers who can sign up for the park they are interested in here. We are focusing on five city-owned parks; Veterans Memorial Park, City Park at Crescent Creek, Wilkinson Farm Park, Grandview Forest Park, and Soundview Forest. We look forward to working alongside our park-minded community members as we pull weeds, spread bark, and bark dust, and show our park properties some love! The City’s Parks Commission and staff are working to organize a fantastic event. Help value our parks by joining us.


Last month, Council reversed a previous decision they had made requiring union negotiations to be held open to the public. Council’s new resolution acknowledges that sometimes discussions with unions can be sensitive, and holding negotiations in private can help both sides communicate more openly. Prior to reversing their decision, Gig Harbor was the only City in Washington that required union negotiations to be open to the public.


Changes are coming to the foodservice ware ordinance that went into effect last fall. The biggest change is that now all pre-packaged items can be sold, regardless of what materials they are made from. I am pleased with this change by Council as I felt it had put regulations for the groceries without really understanding the implications for them as to compete and sell products. This allowance is good for five years, after which all pre-packaged items that are non-recyclable plastic will be illegal.


Last year, the Public Works Committee directed staff to start work on a new above-ground lift station on Ryan Street. After presenting initial renderings, the City heard concerns from a number of residents. As a result, Council has instructed staff to prepare three new options to present for Council to review. An open house will be scheduled in the future to show residents what the options are.


Council has decided to hold regular informal study sessions twice a month on the Thursday immediately following a Council meeting. These study sessions will be open to the public but will not allow for public comment. They are a chance for Council to take a deeper look at more complicated issues. These study sessions will replace the council committees - Public Works, Planning & Building, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Finance & Safety Committees. Council will try this system for six months and then see if they want to keep it permanently.


I wish to welcome Laura Pettitt, our new Tourism & Communications Director. Laura has over 17 years of experience working in communications, marketing, public relations, graphic design, and travel. Most recently, she was the Communications Manager at the Washington Public Ports Association. Mimi Jansen, who did a great job filling in as the Interim Tourism & Communications Director, is moving on from the City, and we thank her for all her hard work.


Our HR department is also working hard, recruiting a new City Attorney, and bringing on a new Information Services Manager this month.


We are concerned about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) that is on a lot of people’s minds. We are working with the State and County and monitoring what they are telling us and the public. We are taking this seriously and will continue to provide the highest level of safety and emergency during the current COVID-19 outbreak. Please see the City’s website for our precautionary statement and links to agencies.


I wish every one of you a joyful weekend.