Good Day Gig Harbor,
It is now officially fall and as the air gets crisp and we say goodbye to summer, I hope each of you are doing well. We are all going through a challenging time, unlike any other. This year tests our strengths and is an incredible hardship for most. I feel for all of our businesses, parents, children and community. I hope all of you stay healthy and happy.
We are starting to see COVID-19 cases rise again over the past few weeks throughout Pierce County. Kids are returning to school, and that is bound to lead to more contact between people. It’s more important than ever to continue to wear your masks.
Pierce County is still in Phase Two of the Safe Start plan so we’re still “on pause” from advancing to Phase Three. Our County numbers need to drastically improve before we can move to Phase Three.
Some bright news to share is that Governor Inslee announced that Phase Two is being modified to allow a wider amount of business activities. Members of different households will now be able to be seated together at restaurants indoors, and restaurants will be able to serve alcohol as late as 11 p.m. The table size will be six in Phase Two and eight in Phase Three.
Libraries will be allowed to have some indoor activity at 25 percent capacity now, similar to museums. Movie theaters will be allowed to have 25 percent occupancy in Phase Two and 50 percent occupancy in Phase Three, with social distancing required and masks required outside of eating and drinking.
The guidelines for school-related and non-school related sports will now be in line, and sports will be put into different risk categories as far as when they can restart. There will also be rules about transportation, group size and masks.
The limit for wedding receptions in Phase Two remains at 30 but will increase to 50 people in Phase Three. Now real estate open houses are allowed, limited by the restrictions on gathering size in a county, which is currently five people in Phase Two.
Allowable activities have also been expanded for the "Personal Services" business category. This includes salons, cosmetologists, estheticians, tattoo artists, and other similar categories. Some close-contact services, like facials or beard trimmings are now allowed if the employee wears an N95 respirator. An FDA-approved surgical mask combined with a face shield will suffice as long as the provider has N95 respirators on order, if they are not immediately available.
The Pierce County COVID-19 Testing Trailer will be returning to Gig Harbor High School at 5101 Rosedale Street. Upcoming dates include October 16th, November 20th and December 18th. As a reminder, this drive-up testing is presented by the Gig Harbor Police Department and the Department of Emergency Management – testing is free to all and no symptoms need to be present to have a test administered.
The Band Together Small Business Relief Concert Series wraps up with its final concert on October 9th featuring local favorite, The Beatniks! You can still donate to the virtual COVID relief effort, designed to both raise funds to help support and to highlight local businesses struggling through the impacts of the pandemic by texting Band2gether to 44321, or you can visit www.ghkpbandtogether.org for details.
I’ve updated the frequency of my Facebook Live Q&A sessions, which now happen every other Friday. I’d love to have you join me. It’s a great chance to start discussions on issues or items you’re interested in, and to get an update on what’s happening in the City. The next two sessions will be on October 9th and October 23rd at 10:00 a.m.
We are still planning to be cautious with our 2021 Budget as more data comes in on the financial effects of COVID-19. The draft 2021 Budget will be presented to Council and available to the public on October 30th. Council will hold meetings to talk about priorities on October 19th and 20th and that will help determine what ends up in the final budget.
There are two important studies underway right now that are looking at the possibility of expanding the Tacoma Narrows Airport to have a longer runway that will allow commercial passenger airlines. The studies are being done by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) and the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC). Both studies have shown Tacoma Narrows as a site with the potential to expand. No decisions are coming soon, but it’s important to be involved in the first steps of the planning process.
This expansion is too close to our City and will create all kinds of traffic, noise and pollution issues for us. I met with the City Council this week and Council will be adopting a resolution at their October 26th meeting voicing their strong opposition to any significant expansion of the Tacoma Narrows Airport. The City will be sending letters to our representatives in Olympia and Washington DC, as well as to PSRC, CACC and Pierce County. We will continue to voice our opposition any time the subject comes up in the future.
You can reach out to give your comments by visiting https://www.psrc.org/aviation-baseline-study-open-house or emailing CACC@wsdot.wa.gov.
The decision to build or expand an airport ultimately requires agreement between local jurisdictions, the airport sponsor, funding partners and regulatory agencies which likely would include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the State of Washington, and environmental agencies, among others. A central decision maker is the airport sponsor, which would be the lead agency in developing a new airport. Pierce County is the sponsor for Tacoma Narrows Airport.
The Tacoma Narrows Airport is also conducting its own in-house Landside Planning Study and is hosting an on-line open house through October 13th. The online open house shares details about the project, planning process, future projections and encourages your input on development concepts. This study focuses on the aprons, taxilanes, auto parking and hangar areas. The study DOES NOT look at changes to the runway.
The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) is also conducting a study of new, potential passenger-only ferry service locations around Puget Sound. Gig Harbor is one of the locations under consideration by the study. PSRC launched the study early in 2020, starting with a review of previous studies and current passenger-only ferry service to identify trends, lessons learned and best practices. Gig Harbor has scored and ranked high during all completed phases of the study and is currently in the top 25% of route considerations. This is concerning to me, given the implications to space and crowding in downtown Gig Harbor.
We met with staff and the consultants from PSRC last Monday and listened to their findings and the consultant’s study on a passenger ferry for Gig Harbor. The ferry style being considered is a 250-passenger ferry to enter our harbor or be at the old ferry landing right outside the entrance to our harbor. When asked to provide feedback we had several large concerns. We know that the ferry service would have to be greatly funded and subsidized by our city, thus our taxpayers. We also learned the state will fund roads and highways but is leaving ferry funded projects up to regional, county and the cities as the source to fund this. We are not excited to tax our citizens to fund this.
We greatly feel the ferry would overpower the quaint harbor we love, create erosion of our sand spit at the lighthouse and property owners’ beaches. We educated them how we have sailboat races, paddleboards, kayakers and a huge watercraft bay that would be a detriment to our community. Traffic problems, no parking and our small community could not handle all of this. We would also have angry citizens and lawsuits. Our primary concerns include parking, traffic and quality of life. We told them thank you but asked them to take us off their list.
Council adopted a Resolution last month that will permanently recognize October 12th as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the month of November as Native American Heritage Month here in the City of Gig Harbor. Each year during October and November, we will proudly display the flag of the Puyallup Nation in our Council Chambers.
We will soon be gathering an ad hoc committee made up of councilmembers, residents, the Puyallup Tribe, and a Parks Commissioner to discuss restoring the original Native American name to a park to honor the sx??babc? (sk-whuh-babsh) band of the Puyallup Tribe. Next year we will see the dedication of an Honorary Symbol at Austin Estuary Park. We will be talking about other ways to recognize and honor the first people who lived here as well.
City Council’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee is working right now on a Legislative Agenda to inform our representatives in Olympia what the City needs. We are focusing in on congestion issues on Highway 16, funding for the Sports Complex, and assistance in adding more attainable housing in the City.
Grant applications are now available for local non-profits to apply for lodging tax funds. These funds can only be used to help support local tourism by promoting events or supporting organizations that bring in tourists. Last year’s recipients included groups like the Harbor History Museum, Downtown Waterfront Association, the Eddon Boatshop, Race for a Soldier, Harbor Wild Watch, and the Gig Harbor Film Festival. November 2nd is the deadline to apply.
A Virtual Open House for the public was held on September 26th to show the new design option for Lift Station 6 on Ryan Street. The Open House exhibits depicted an underground lift station with pedestrian guardrail and landscaping amenities surrounding the station. Nearby residents attended and some expressed their appreciation to the City for listening to the community and agreeing to design an underground replacement lift station at this location. Design work for the new lift station will begin soon and construction should start in early summer 2021, with complete construction by the end of 2021.
I also wanted to share that Public works Director Jeff Langhelm recently recognized Senior Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator John Ozga for his recent award from the Pollution Control Association. We applaud his work and dedication to the City of Gig Harbor! Mr. Ozga plans to retire in December.
The City has several advisory boards that are filled by local volunteers and when new openings come up we advertise them on the front page of the City’s website. Right now we are looking to fill a couple of openings on our Salary Commission. The Salary Commission typically only meets every other year, but it has the important job of setting the salaries for the Mayor and City Councilmembers. This is a good opportunity to help support the City.
I love our community and our City and we will get through this. We have to pull together (while keeping our distance), mask up, and encourage those around us to be responsible and safe out there.
Stay safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.