Good Day Gig Harbor,
I hope you are well and happy. During some of these rainy winter days, I think it’s important to think about what’s in store for us in 2021 - things are starting to look up. Soon days will start to get longer, more stores and businesses will open and more people will get vaccinated.
Last Saturday’s drive-thru vaccine clinic event at Chapel Hill filled up in record time – 700 spots were taken in less than 19 minutes. That’s typical right now of the vaccine clinics. Please rest assured, there are more vaccination events in the pipeline. Another one is coming this Saturday February 6th – and it was filled in 9 minutes. We are working with the county health department and other public agencies to provide drive-thru vaccination clinics that are coordinated within our community.
Gig Harbor continues to still see more COVID-19 cases, our area has surpassed 1,000 overall and we have now lost 14 members of our community to the virus. This past year has taken a heavy toll on all of us, but we are very encouraged about the future with the vaccine roll-out picking up speed.
Governor Jay Inslee announced last week that Pierce County was one of the counties moving into Phase Two of the “Healthy Washington” Recovery Plan. Beginning February 1st, restrictions on social gatherings and some businesses were relaxed here in Pierce County. Here’s a quick look at the new relaxed restrictions:
- Restaurants, fitness centers and entertainment establishments (theaters, museums and bowling alleys) can open at 25% capacity with an 11:00 PM curfew.
- All other indoor activities, including religious and faith-based services, are capped at a 25 percent capacity limit, or 50 people - whichever is less.
- Indoor and outdoor sports can hold league games and competitions again.
- You can entertain outdoors with groups up to 15 from two households, and an overall maximum capacity of 75 people per venue.
- Wedding and funeral ceremonies and indoor receptions can happen following the appropriate venue requirements.
To remain in Phase 2, our region has to meet at least three of the following categories:
- A decreasing or flat trend in the two-week rate of cases per 100,000
- A decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate of new COVID hospital admission rates per 100,000
- An ICU occupancy total of less than 90%— that includes COVID and non-COVID beds
- A COVID test positivity rate of less than 10%.
In order to keep moving forward towards more openings and better phases and keep our transmission low, please wear face coverings, maintaining a six foot physical distance, staying home when you’re sick and get tested if you experience symptoms.
Though the Civic Center is closed to the public, employees are teleworking or are here working to maintain the services you have grown to expect. Our Public Works and Wastewater Treatment Plant crew are doing a fantastic job. Our Planning and Building Department is 33% busier than normal and working hard to keep up. Our Police Department is out there providing a safe environment for our citizens. Our Court is providing virtual hearings. Our HR Department is busy recruiting personnel and keeping up with changes with COVID. Finance is paying the bills and providing the detail that keeps our city in good shape. And our administration department is moving forward with our 2021 budget and future years agenda.
With our 2021 Budget adopted we are continuing work on several projects for the year. Council, myself and our senior staff just held our annual retreat where we talked about our long-term plans for the City. We will also be bringing in a strategic planning specialist to assist us plan for long term goals that we want to accomplish.
One of our projects that is nearing completion is the native landscaping at the stormwater pond and hillside near the roundabout at Burnham Drive. This is something we have been working towards to beautify the area.
On January 14, we held a study session meeting with Council and several stakeholders to discuss the completed feasibility study on the Fishermen’s Homeport at Ancich Waterfront Park. The study concluded the linear dock alternative was the best route to take with this project based upon cost, mitigation, traffic, water safety, historical design, the ability to raft and potential to expand. We had input from the fishermen and neighbors in the area to hear what they think will work best. Staff is considering the fishermen’s proposed dock layout from 2014 and developing for Council consideration a hybrid dock layout that is similar to the fishermen’s proposal but also meets the fishermen’s criteria for separation, vessel size, etc. I’m excited to get this project moving forward.
The sxw?babs Recognition Ad-Hoc Committee, made up of councilmembers, historians, tribal leaders and I have worked for almost a year to identify an appropriate way to recognize Gig Harbor’s rich Native American history. We have worked hard to find ways to honor our native Americans. It has been a journey. By listening to many interested parties, we feel we’ve come upon a culturally appropriate solution that truly recognizes our community’s interest in acknowledging the whole history of our lands and waters.
Although the sxw?babs people lived throughout this region, the heart and soul of the sxw?babs community was our waterfront area and the primary village site was located where Harbor History Museum, Donkey Creek Park and Austin Estuary Park are today. The sxw?babs civilization is a rich part of our community’s story, yet it is one that has not been properly recognized and celebrated. We wish to remedy that and will go to Council on February 22 with a Resolution.
- Naming of Twalwacut Estuary: 7 acre estuary, including the mouth of Donkey Creek, the Harbor History Museum site, and other lands in and around Donkey Creek Park be named "Twalwacut Estuary" in recognition of the historic sxw?babs village site.
- Changing the name of "Austin Estuary Park" to "Austin Park"
- Recognition of Ancestral Homelands of sxw?babs Peoples. This is a historic moment in which our community can be proud.
We’ve developed a recommendation to have Council change the name of “Austin Estuary Park” to “Austin Park” and giving the Donkey Creek and estuary area the title of “Twalwacut Estuary.” We feel that this will honor both the first inhabitants of our lands and the logging families who later came to the area. Along with this proposal, we expect to work with the Harbor History Museum and the Puyallup Tribe to provide the public with educational information on this important area.
On February 3 the Parks Commission voted to support this as does the Austin family, the Historical Society, the Honoring Project Committee and others.
One of our hardest-working teams here at the city is our Wastewater Treatment Plant employees who just received for the 13th time the Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award from the Washington State Department of Ecology. Earning this award requires 12 months of continuous 24-hour wastewater treatment plant operation with zero violations. To achieve this, staff must operate and maintain hundreds of pieces of equipment and maintain a laboratory which includes daily, weekly, monthly and annual testing with zero errors or violations. In addition, the treatment plant staff must also maintain 18 lift stations and over 50 miles of sewer lines. Thank you all for your outstanding performance.
The Gig Harbor Arts Commission has announced the 2021 Creative Endeavor Grants Program to support the work of local individuals and organizations involved in arts and culture. The goal is to increase arts and cultural opportunities available to the people of Gig Harbor. The deadline for applications is February 26.
Another upcoming opportunity is a second round of our Lodging Tax Grants, which are designed to help underwrite events and attractions that bring tourism to Gig Harbor. These are designed to be utilized by non-profits, and we’ll open up our second call for funding on Tuesday, February 16th. We have $50,000 available in grants and encourage non-profits to apply.
I want to caution citizens on the idea of approving a change from our present form of government to a Council-City Manager form where council has increased power. Presently we have a “hybrid system” with checks and balances in place to defend against a monopolized, special interest government. The way it is now the citizens can vote a mayor in or out every four years.
With the Council-Manager form of government the Council decides that for you. They elect the manager and the mayor, not the citizens. Presently, the Mayor cannot appoint a City Administrator without a support vote by council. In Washington, 71% of cities our size use our current form of government and several cities have changed back to our current form after they tried a Council-Manager format.
Also, a majority of Council can decide to vote a manager in or out. This could result in change more often and could cost city taxpayers more as a result and create lots of changes in direction. The other councilmembers opposed to this would not have a say which means it could take years to get the control back to the voters to change back to a Strong Mayor format.
I feel it is best not to rush into changing government without the ability for the public to really understand the whole picture. Having this happen during a pandemic does not seem transparent to our citizens.
At this time, during the pandemic we are also very concerned about staff needs. We want to be here for them, to be stable and provide reassurance without introducing drastic change during this crisis.
At our last Council meeting, many letters were read from the public stating now is not the time to rush this, during a pandemic. After we get through this crisis, it will allow the public the chance to understand this further.
Council recently voted this proposal down 4-3, and they will not present it to our community for a vote of the people at this time.
Overall, Gig Harbor has a lot to look forward to in 2021. We’re working hard on your behalf here at the city. You can catch updates from me every other Friday on our Facebook page and Wednesdays on KGHP at 1:00pm. Please be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.