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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