Greetings Gig Harbor,
I hope this message finds you all happy and healthy. I would like to say Happy Mother’s Day to all those mothers out there. I hope your Sunday, two days ago was good and I hope you were able to share it with your loved ones.
As most of you now know, our county returned to Phase Two three weeks ago yet the numbers keep increasing, which is a bad sign for progressing toward re-opening. Last Tuesday, the Governor put a two-week pause on any county moving forward, so we remain in Phase Two for now. Gig Harbor sits at just over 1400 cases to date, Experts are now reporting that the slow adaption rate of the vaccines available mean herd immunity is unlikely, and COVID is something we will likely deal with in the years to come. This puts an extra focus on getting vaccinated – appointments are available locally, and I encourage our citizens over 16 that are eligible to make their appointments.
No one has been more important to our long battle with the pandemic than our essential workers. Council and I proclaimed the week of April 26 through May 3 as Essential Workers Appreciation Week to honor these day-to-day heroes. Essential workers include those at grocery stores, in food and agriculture, education, healthcare and public health, law enforcement and public safety, government-based critical functions, our municipal employees, shipping and transportation, housing and real estate, energy and utility services, retail and personal services, and non-profits providing community services.
All of these people showed up for work each and every day at heightened personal risk to provide the essential services we all depend on in our everyday lives – in many cases, putting themselves in contact with hundreds of people each day.
COVID-19 makes event planning difficult for our community this summer. Because of all the uncertainty around the phases, we just changed some of our requirements for special event permits. Now, if a group wants to plan an event like a graduation, festival or a parade we can refund their fees if public health restrictions force the event to be cancelled. It also lets us allow events on short notice if plans change because of COVID-19. If an indoor graduation gets cancelled we can now approve an outdoor celebration on short notice, if the restrictions allow for it. We are trying to be as flexible as we can to make sure we can have as close to a normal summer as possible.
We are still planning to have our Concerts in the Parks and our Movies in the Parks this summer even if we have to spray water soluble paint to have people stay in their areas. But the events will not start until mid-July so hopefully by then we will be in better shape.
The big news from our City Council meetings this month – which many of you have been involved with – is that starting in 2022, fireworks will be allowed on the 4th of July only here in the city limits of Gig Harbor. Over 200 citizens weighed in on this issue, with 85% of the responses supported limiting fireworks to just the holiday -- or even banning them completely. Council felt that the one-day limit was a good compromise that allows people to celebrate, but also protects some of our vulnerable population and pets from having a week-long barrage of noise. It will also provide some relief to our fire department and emergency responders. Fireworks sales will continue to be allowed, and you can continue to support our local non-profits that run the stands.
We know that this will not stop all fireworks from being set off on other days besides the 4th of July. It will be difficult for our Police to enforce the new law, so we will rely heavily on educating our residents. We also know there are neighboring areas outside of the city limits that this ordinance will not apply to, and noise outside of the city limits may still be disruptive.
The change doesn’t happen until 2022, however, which gives us time to start education and outreach. We’ll be working with the Fire District, our local Gig Harbor fireworks stands, and local outreach groups to be sure people know what the new law means. Right now, the fine for illegally setting off fireworks is $1,000. That’s pretty high and I have encouraged Council to lower this amount so they will be discussing it.
Last year, Council set aside $125,000 of our Lodging Tax money to fund special events and tourism expenses for our local non-profits in the year’s budget. Coming into 2021, we still had $50,000 of that amount to award, so we opened up a second round of applications this spring.
In April, our Lodging Tax Advisory Committee met and recommend awarding the remaining funds to the following organizations:
- The Canterwood Ladies Golf Association – hosting the Washington State Women’s Golf Association State Championships
- The Greater Gig Harbor Foundation Association’s annual Cider Swig
- The Harbor History Museum’s year-round marketing and 10th Anniversary Celebration – “History Rocks”
- United by Music North America’s first Make Music Day
- The Gig Harbor Boat Shop’s docent-led tours
- The Peninsula Art League’s Open Juried Art Show
- Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club beautification hosting year-round events
- The Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team’s new event, The Narrows Challenge
This is a great way for us to be able to help some of the organizations that were hit hardest by COVID-19 and bring in overnight guests to contribute to our local economic recovery, as well as increases in lodging and sales tax revenue.
This year Council has started a new policy of requiring staff to give a quarterly “check-in” on all of the objectives in our 2021 Budget. We had our first report in April with a full study session on where things stand right now. We always plan our budget from an optimistic outlook on what we want to get done, however there are always unexpected hurdles along the way. Last year, COVID surprised us and waylaid a lot of our plans – in 2021, yet we are very much on track to accomplish many of our city goals.
One of those projects is our newest roundabout on Stinson and Rosedale. If you have not driven it recently please do so. I want to congratulate our city Public Works team on the completion of this intersection, which is now fully open, with some finishing work continuing through the following weeks.
On a hiring note, many companies and organizations have struggled a bit with the slow pace of hiring that are facing many industries right now, the City is facing that same hurdle.
While the pandemic persists, people are hesitant to move or change jobs with so much uncertainty. We’re also seeing a larger generational shift into retirement. Here at the City we have some really great opportunities open, and I encourage you to take a look. A few of them are:
…to name a few. I want to applaud our current employees who are doing a great job of keeping us on track, and encourage our qualified citizens to apply, or pass along candidates for these open city positions.
The City received its final 2019 audit report and it came back perfectly clean with zero negative comments. Much credit goes to Finance Director Dave Rodenbach, Senior Accountant Jaci Auclair-Tomlinson and their team in the Finance Department. We routinely pass our audits with flying colors due to their diligence and thoroughness.
April 18-24 was Volunteer Appreciation Week in Gig Harbor. At the April 12 Council Meeting we had:
- Louise Tieman (Parks Commission)
- Greg Hoeksema (Planning Commission)
- Brett Marlo-Desantis (Design Review Board)
- Larry Bleich (Citizens on Patrol)
- George Pollitt (Community Volunteer)
all share a brief summary of their reasons for volunteering and accept the proclamation on behalf of our community volunteers. Council and I are very grateful all the hard work each and every one of our many volunteers do for the City.
We have also had several donations recently that I want to recognize. The Rotary Club donated a fourth musical instrument at Shaw Park called “Contrabass Chimes.” Gloria Riley donated a Memorial Bench at Skansie Brothers Park. Two more donations are in the works: benches at Wilkinson Farm Park and a water dispenser near the baseball fields at City Park at Crescent Creek, which is fully operational but currently not in service due to COVID.
Last night at our council meeting we passed the Sports Complex Lease Agreement with the YMCA. This has been something council, staff and myself have worked on with the YMCA for three years. We are so excited to partner with the Y and work towards getting these fields built for our community. The Y is scheduled to sign it as well this week. The YMCA will pay the cost of construction of the new fields and will run the programs there. The City will construct the playground, bocce ball courts, restrooms and lawn adjacent to the ball fields. The YMCA is planning to have the construction underway by the end of 2024.
The human-powered watercraft floats at Ancich Waterfront Park are on schedule to be completed this year. The biggest user group will be the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team. The team had committed to raising $500,000 to fund the floats, but by using an existing pier the City was able to save a considerable amount and save the team some money. Council has agreed to ask the team for $100,000 toward the project and in exchange the team will have its lease of part of the kayak storage building extended until 2026. The racing team is an important part of our culture and we are excited to have them using this new park.
Lastly, Bob Larson, our City Administrator announced to staff and Council Thursday that he is retiring from city management in mid-July. The City of Gig Harbor recognizes his decision to retire. I appreciate that he shared his thoughts in a way that was kind enough to give us a bit more time than was written in his contract to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Though we only were able to have his leadership for a short time he was beneficial in so many ways. His caring attitude and skills were very helpful in guiding us, as well as weathering a pandemic through his whole time here.
Bob and I have discussed various qualified and experienced individuals who could be the interim City Administrator. We will be working to complete this transition, conducting interviews with council and staff. We should have someone onboard prior to his departure.
Gig Harbor is in good shape financially and our City services continue to be performed to what our citizens count on and appreciate. On behalf of the City we thank Bob for all that he has done here and wish the best for Bob and his family.
We have had a good taste of sunshine lately, which is hopefully a sign of good times to come for us this summer. As always, be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.