Hello Gig Harbor Residents,
We are now a month into the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy proclamation and I want to thank you all for all you’ve done to help us stop the spread of COVID-19. I know it has been hard for many of us to be stuck at home for so long, especially with the nice spring weather.
With having to adjust to new ways of conducting business or having to make difficult financial decisions, many of our residents and business owners have been affected and are experiencing hardships. At our City Council Meeting on April 13, we took a proactive step intended to benefit all residents and businesses in hopes of lessening the impact so many of us are facing during these unprecedented times.
Every City utility customer will have their base rates waived for two months of water and wastewater services. For most single-family homes, this will be a savings of about $120 that should appear on your April/May or May/June bill. This comes at a cost to the City of about $600,000 in revenue, however, because of prudent financial management, we are able to pass that savings along to our residents, and we feel it is the right thing to do. We are also highly encouraging landlords to pass these savings to their tenants and contacting private utility companies here in Gig Harbor to provide similar relief to their customers.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is making $11 million in funds available to help customers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes customers who recently became unemployed, are partially unemployed, or cannot work. These are carry-over funds under PSE’s Low-Income Program. With approval from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, PSE revised its program to make these funds available to a wider group of customers. We applaud these efforts.
Currently, the Gig Harbor area has 50 cases of COVID-19 in the Gig Harbor area. The Tacoma Pierce County Health Department reports that cases have not increased in the past week. This is good news, but we are in no way out of the woods on this just yet. Over the weekend, the Health Department also reported the first COVID death in Gig Harbor as well.
We are all in this together, please continue to wear a mask while you are out in public to lessen potential exposure. We know there have been reports of some counties that have questioned the enforcement of the Governor's stay at home and social distancing order. Rest assured, we are enforcing the order here in Gig Harbor.
MultiCare has reported they have stayed below capacity. There has been considerable strain on personnel, but operations have continued as planned. If you think you have mild symptoms, you can schedule a free virtual visit at www.franciscanvirtualcare.org by using code: COVID19. For more severe cases or if you are in a high?risk group, they recommend going to a triage center.
St. Anthony Hospital currently has capacity for all levels of care. Based on new CDC guidelines, CHI Franciscan has started "universal masking" at all facilities. Everyone entering a facility, whether you are a patient, visitor, staff, provider, physician, you will be required to wear a mask while onsite. Masks will be given at the designated entrances already being used for symptom screening.
One of the groups hit hardest by this shutdown have been our local businesses. Many have reached out to the City and the Council for help. The City will also be affected by lost revenue, but we are working hard to help support our businesses where we can. There are many options for businesses to get help and we are collecting as many of those as we can as they become available. You can view these on the City’s COVID-19 Local Business page.
Pierce County just expanded their Emergency Small Business Relief Loan Program to include Gig Harbor, and we are glad to see that program in motion. The U.S. Small Business Association loans, including the Paycheck Protection Program have been slow on distribution, but we have heard existing applications are started back up to provide support to businesses to keep their employees paid. The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber is doing webinar updates three times a week and we are constantly looking for more ways to help.
The Civic Center remains closed to the public now through May 4th. We will provide an update on future closure by May 1st.
We are happy to report that the Governor has started letting construction resume on existing projects, as long as safe social distancing rules are followed. The City will resume inspections on projects as long as construction sites are in compliance and we can ensure the safety of our employees. We are receiving permit applications as of yesterday, April 27.
In our Public Works department, all essential City utility and transportation operations, maintenance, and capital projects continue to occur. The city closed all public park restrooms out of concern for public safety and the safety of our staff. We will be reopening these restrooms on May 5th in line with the Governor’s Phase 1 plan on opening some public lands for recreation.
The Municipal Court continues to conduct remote court hearings weekly for administrative and emergency matters. The court has video/audio hearings via Zoom with livestreaming from the court website to allow participation under social distancing requirements.
Our police officers all remain healthy and on patrol. We are slowly getting the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the Department of Emergency Management and the fire district. We bid adieu to Officer Mike Cabacungan as he retired from law enforcement after 16 years with our department (and two years with Los Angeles Police Department before that). Mike had a terrific heart and passion for the job. It would have been ideal to have acknowledged his service to our community in person in front of the public he served, but we want him to know that we truly appreciate his dedication and wish him the best.
I have been part of the Association of Washington Cities update calls with all Mayors. I have been impressed by the amount we as a city have been doing to share information. We’re reaching about 9,500 people on the City’s Facebook page, including the twice-weekly Live updates we do on Tuesday and Friday mornings at 10:00AM. I encourage you to join and ask questions on your mind.
We’ve recently hosted special guests including Representative Michelle Caldier and Pierce County Councilman Derek Young (who will be on our May 7th Facebook Live Q&A). If you’re looking for information on local busineses to support, our Gig-A-Byte newsletter is now sent weekly. You can sign up at www.gigharborguide.com/gig-blog.
Some good news to share for everyone spending extra time in the yard - The Purdy Transfer Station is again accepting yard waste on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 9 and 11 a.m. Be prepared when you go, the transfer station is no longer accepting cash as of April 8th, but major credit cards including American Express are accepted.
Peninsula School District is back in session with virtual learning. Weekday meal service for students continues. As a resource for parents, Gina Cabbidu at the Children's Home Society of Washington is working hard to provide positive parenting resources for families with children ages 2-12, and 13-17, along with gift cards for families in need. You can donate at www.childrenshomesociety.com.
Pierce Transit is currently running on a reduced weekend schedule, and they have increased the size of the bus to accommodate social distancing, meaning they are operating on a detour route. Due to this, approximately six bus stops along Pioneer will be omitted.
Contracts have recently been sent out to several nonprofit groups, including Harbor WildWatch, the Gig Harbor BoatShop, the Harbor History Museum, and Race for a Soldier to provide them with the amounts previously approved in 2019 from our lodging tax fund. Each year we support groups that bring visitors to the city, and revenue to our local businesses. This year will look a bit different, but we continue to work to provide support where it is needed most.
April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and we want to commend our many volunteers for programs throughout the city. Our volunteers truly make sure our city continues to be a wonderful place to live, and we couldn’t do it without them. We have so many great volunteers including our Citizens Offering Police Support (C.O.P.S.), all of advisory board members, our Skansie House tourism volunteers and many other local organizations. THANK YOU!
This year it is extra important to recognize the individuals and businesses who are really stepping up to the plate during the COVID-19 crisis. They say in times where we’re tested, that’s when we truly shine. I’m so proud of our community and our volunteers, now and year-round. Our gratitude to them continues to grow. There are a lot of groups and organizations fund raising and trying to help the community, and it is very inspiring to witness. Whether it is a concert fundraiser or Ocean 5 giving food out to those in need, or a Pilates studio doing a Zoom class to raise funds, we commend you and we will help spread the news.
Below, a few updates from recent action from City Council:
On April 13th the City granted a franchise agreement to ExteNet for telecommunications, which includes fiberoptic cable and small wireless facilities. This is the City’s first franchise agreement to allow for small cell (5G) wireless boxes. To put up these boxes, ExteNet still needs to go through the City’s permit process and we are doing everything we can by law to make sure these will be done as safely as possible with the least impact to the city. Council and I are very concerned about the health risks and potential impacts. We will be monitoring the information our country gathers as the contract is for 5 years and hopefully, we will learn a lot more prior to any renewal.
Also, on April 13th, the City Council authorized staff to work with a consultant to make safety improvement designs on the East side of Burnham Drive. This will include bike lanes, sidewalks, and crosswalk lights for a very busy stretch of roadway.
At a study session on April 16th, Council asked staff to provide new renderings for options for Lift Station 6, located in the Ryan Street neighborhood. We are trying to find the best option to protect the view and neighborhood, whether that means partially burying the lift station or moving it out of the way on Craig Lane. We will hold an open house for residents once we have the options ready for review.
The City’s work continues to provide all the services you need. Thank you to all of our staff members who are continuing to work either remotely or coming in because you are essential workers. We couldn’t make this all possible without all your hard work and dedication to public service.
I would like to say this is a very difficult time for everyone. Many businesses and people have or will lose jobs and the financial stability that they once had. Some of us have lost a loved one through this as well. Unlike most times, we have not even been able to say goodbye, have a funeral or experience closure of the life we cherished with them. There's no right or wrong way to deal with the loss of a loved one.
It's not just about coping with a loss but coping with change that takes time. It might be helpful to write a journal, talk to someone, or try to do things that make you happy or reach out to a friend for help. It feels terrible at the time of pain. But if you can weather it, have faith, and rise above it, you will be amazed in time at how far you will have come. Everyone believes how they want to, I personally believe in God and that He WILL help us through this.
Life rarely goes as planned. Often, life will take you in a completely different direction than intended. Having faith, for me, means that you believe things will work out -?maybe not right now, but in the end.
We will get through this, it’s the how we get through it that matters. Show your best out there, rise above, stand tall, believe in yourself, that you can do it, and help one another. That might mean having patience while homeschooling, staying healthy through exercising or cutting out quarantine snacks. It might be being positive, cutting your neighbors some slack, looking at the positive, or just getting through each day. Give yourself a little grace and understand this is new territory for all of us.
You can do it, and you will do it -- and together we will get through this, even if we are apart as we do so.