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May 18

Mayor’s Update - May 18, 2020

Posted on May 18, 2020 at 2:04 PM by Joshua Stecker

Hello Gig Harbor Citizens,

I hope you are well and doing ok as we continue through the lockdown. I know this is hard on all of us. Earlier this month, the Governor extended the Stay Home, Stay Health order through May, and I know that felt disheartening.

I know many of you have strong thoughts and opinions about the re-opening schedule. To share your voice with state government, you can use the Public Inquiries phone number at 360-902-4111. I have been working on speaking directly to the Governor to share our feedback. Here at the City, we are getting a lot of pressure to open some businesses. I do not believe it is fair that a hardware store, or grocery store can be open, while a small business that could have one or two customers at a time is not allowed to open.

Other examples include a Pilates studio that could offer a class for three to five people open with social distance practices. I feel strongly that health and wellbeing falls under the essential business category.

I’ve also heard about a dog groomer not allowed to open, while a pet store that sells dog food can do grooming. Allowing one provider to offer a service while shuttering another isn’t right.

We are getting a lot of pressure from many kinds of businesses that say these phased rules are very hypocritical and not fair to their business. We need some answers from the Governor soon.

In these last weeks, the Governor provided a long-awaited update on the plan to re-open Washington, which included a tentative timeline outlining four phases. We’re currently in Phase 1 where construction projects that were already in motion can resume, provided they follow social distancing and a number of safety restrictions. Landscaping is allowed now too, along with automobile sales, retail for curb-side pickup only, car washes and pet walkers along with expanded outdoor recreation opportunities.

Essential travel is still the only kind permitted through the remainder of May, so be mindful of where you go. Public lands are open for some recreation purposes – you can hunt, fish, golf, play tennis, get on the water with paddle sports, hop on an ATV or off-road vehicle, or go biking or hunting – but social distancing measures still need to be observed. Drive-in church services are now allowed with one household per car.

When we do move to Phase 2, gatherings with five people outside your household are allowed. All outdoor recreation, including camping and beach time is allowed, but travel is limited to within the proximity of your home. Manufacturing, new construction, in-home and domestic services like nannies and housecleaning can resume. In-store retail purchases will be allowed with restrictions. Real estate and office-based businesses can resume. Hair salons, barbers and nail salons can open, and restaurants can open under 50% capacity, with tables that seat no more than five. The earliest phase two is able to be considered is after May 31st.

In Phase 3, outdoor recreation and sports activities from five to fifty people can resume. Recreational facilities can operate at under 50% capacity. Gatherings of less than 50 people can resume along with non-essential travel. Restaurants can operate at under 75% capacity, bars at less than 25% capacity, indoor gyms at less than 50% capacity, and movie theatres at less than 50% capacity. Government services, libraries, museums and all other business activities excluding nightclubs and events with more than 50 people can resume here. The very earliest that Phase 3 will be considered is on June 22nd.

In Phase Four, we can all resume public interaction, with physical distancing. All recreational activity resumes, and gatherings of over 50 people are allowed. All travel is allowed and nightclubs, concerts, and large sporting events return. The earliest phase four will be considered is July 13th.

I want to thank you all for the sacrifices you’ve made in the past few months for the wellness of our community. This has been and will continue to be a time that truly tests what we’re made of. I applaud the parents working with their kids each day on schoolwork and their own telework. I applaud the furloughed workers who have filed for unemployment benefits at midnight to get through. I applaud our teachers for putting together continuous learning plans, and our businesses for adapting to unimaginable circumstances to modify their offers and to survive.

There has been real loss for some in our community – some people have had to bury loved ones without funerals or the ability to say goodbye in person. This has been a devastating time, and all of us have experienced it on different levels. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with the loss of a loved one. Everyone deals with it differently. It’s not just about coping with a loss, but coping with change that takes time…and a lot of time. Things that help could be writing in a journal, talking to someone, or trying to do things that make you happy. Reach out to a friend for help.

One of the things that makes Gig Harbor an incredible place to live is our shared sense of community. We want to recognize “Lasagna Lady” Michelle Brenner for donating home-made lasagnas to families and essential workers, and Wendy O’Neill, one of the admins of the popular local Facebook group “Gig Harbor’s Positive Town Talk,” who has started fundraising for small local businesses.

We also want to bring attention to those helping to bring a smile to the people around them, from the “driveway dancers” in the Harbor Hill neighborhood, to a surprise appearance by Chewbacca, spotted enjoying the sun in downtown. That’s one really creative approach to wearing a mask.

We have some good news to confirm – the City of Gig Harbor will be receiving a total of $323,100 from the CARES Act for local economic support. We do not know when these funds will arrive, but we are working on eligibility requirements with the state, and will be presenting a plan to council at our May 26th City Council meeting.

The City has been getting many questions about summer events. The downtown Farmer’s Market, presented by the Downtown Waterfront Alliance, will return on June 18. It will likely look a little different, and social distancing will be enforced. We are tentatively planning for the best-case scenario, reaching Phase 4 by the first possible date, July 13. We are working on permits for Summer Sounds at Skansie and Movies in the Park, along with the return of the Gig Harbor Trolley for when we move to Phase 4.

I will continue to give regular updates on the city’s Facebook page with our live Q&A videos. Next week, I’ll be live on Tuesday morning to answer questions on the state’s latest directives and provide updates from the city, and on Friday, we’ll welcome Dr. Anthony Chen, Director of Health for the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department. If you have questions, this is a great time to ask.

I want to encourage each one of you to contact your favorite businesses and ask if you can support them in this time. If not, they may not be here when we re-open. Please continue to wear your mask while out in public, this will protect others around you.

Here’s an update on what we’ve been working on with our City Council over the past few weeks:

  • Council met in study session on April 30th to discuss the City’s 2020 budget. They’ll meet on May 28th to review current projects. The city is carefully considering any expenditure in this economic climate. There are tough decisions ahead and we may not fully know how much lost revenue we’re facing until later in the summer. One early number to share: real estate excise taxes for April 2020 were down 24% from last year.
  • A project to supply water and wastewater service for part of downtown continues at Lift Station #6, and we’ve put out an RFQ for a third-party consultant to determine the right size for our police force, for both safety and economic reasons.
  • At the May 11th Council Meeting, Council approved allowing city staff to accept digital signatures for certain types of documents. This will help speed up some processes during the COVID-19 pandemic but will also allow us to be more efficient moving forward.

We also have some updates to share from our city departments:

  • With construction allowed to resume, our building department is now conducting inspections. Two big projects going on right now are the new Peninsula School District elementary schools – building #9 across from the YMCA and building #10 at the Bujacich site.
  • The City’s Public Works crew started performing landscape maintenance again, and is excited to make the City’s landscaping look nice again. Park restrooms are now re-opened and are being cleaned regularly.
  • The Municipal Court has successfully implemented video conferencing hearing via Zoom with live streaming from the court website, allowing us to better serve the community at this time.
  • From the Gig Harbor Police Department, Officer Eddy Dominguez was awarded the department Lifesaving Award for a recent call where he performed CPR for approximately two minutes which saved a life.

We continue to move forward on other projects as much as we can. The City is working towards an RCO grant and a Land and Water Conservation fund grant – if we get these, this could bring $1M dollars in grant funds to the Sports Complex Phase 1B project, covering the construction of bocce ball courts, pickleball courts, a playground and parking.

The City is also working with the Jerkovich family on a lease to allow the City to use their existing pier at Ancich Waterfront Park to build a human-powered watercraft float. This could potentially save the City a lot of money and replace building our own float system, while also saving the Kayak Club from having to meet their $500,000 fundraising commitment. This is in no way a done deal - costs and details will still have to be looked at closely.

We are also exploring options for future use of the Masonic Lodge Building, including remodeling or potentially tearing it own. There are many upgrades needed to make it usable if we remodel, like a kitchen, better restrooms, windows, and ADA access. We could partner with many groups to help find the funds to pay for the remodel.

When we get to Phase 4, we’ll hold a public forum to get your thoughts on what would be the best use the building – potentially even a community hall.

We know there is a while to go until things return to normal, and that there will be a lot of adjustments to make in the coming months. Our city has been through difficult times before and come through stronger and more appreciative of our community and the wonderful place we are lucky to call home. Support each other, be kind to each other, and we’ll see you soon.

Stay healthy out there,