Good Day Gig Harbor,
The last few days of the historic heat wave over the Pacific Northwest have truly reminded me how lucky we are to live in a temperate climate where 100 degree days are very rare. I am also glad to see how our community pulls together in times of need – I want to thank the Gig Harbor Police Department and Chapel Hill Church for opening a cooling center for residents without air conditioning. It was wonderful to see people coming together and even donating bottled water to the cooling center. Our water feature at Skansie Park is now open from 11:00am to 7:00pm for the season, marking the first time it’s been back in operation since the pandemic.
As we cool down, another big event is happening - the state re-opens today, June 30. We’ve worked toward this for a long time, and I know we’re all excited to see our friends and neighbors, to patronize our local businesses, and to get back to a normal way of doing things. If you’re fully vaccinated, masks and physical distancing requirements go away. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, you’ll still need to wear a mask in public and observe social distancing. There are some exceptions, this doesn’t apply to health care settings like hospitals, long-term care, or doctor’s offices; correctional facilities, homeless shelters, or schools. Summer school is still requiring masks, for example. Additionally, businesses can choose whether or not they require masks or distancing on their own.
So far, about 800,000 doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 382,000 are fully vaccinated. That means 42% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and nearly 50% are partially vaccinated. You can see Gig Harbor’s metrics at TPCHD.org by neighborhood.
This Friday, we’re hosting a special pop-up concert at Skansie Park featuring Gig Harbor’s own Redemption, a high-energy country band. I encourage you to come out, say hello to your friends and neighbors, and enjoy a beautiful summer night here in downtown Gig Harbor. Remember – Arrive by land or sea, but don’t put your chair out before 3:00p. For anyone who does, we have a team in place to collect and store those behind Skansie house for people to pick up. This is in place to allow our citizens and guests to use the park for the day.
It’s been a busy few weeks at the City, with progress made on many of our key initiatives and new items introduced.
In our City Council meeting on June 14, I read a proclamation formally recognizing June 19 as “Juneteenth” here in the City of Gig Harbor. I also highlighted a message from Peninsula School District Superintendent Dr. Art Jarvis that noted his support and recognition of the efficiency and cost-savings that the City’s Planning, Building and Public Works departments provided PSD with on the permitting process for two new elementary schools. The savings in time and cost will enable PSD to renovate both Kopachuck and Key Peninsula Middle Schools, which is a huge benefit for our community.
Our Public Works Director, Jeff Langhelm, reported on the process and upcoming deadline in December of this year to update the PROS Plan. A consultant was selected to assist in the development of this plan, however the scope of the contract has increased with the Parks Manager position still vacant. Work continues on this.
On an exciting note, a project we’ve worked on for a long time has reached a new milestone. Kirsten Gregory of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team announced that the team has received a $250,000 grant to assist in the construction of the human-powered watercraft floats. Public Works added in that the City was approved for a $25,000 grant from the Port of Tacoma, and $100,000 from lodging tax funds will be put forward for this project being that this is tourist-related and that LTAC offered no objection to the expenditure. This money will offset what would have come from the General Fund.
On June 17, our City Administrator, Bob Larson, gave an overview of the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) Local Fiscal Recovery Fund and the related acceptable uses for the $2.99 million allocated to Gig Harbor. He presented four options for Council to consider for funding: Civic Center HVAC improvements, Council Chambers audio/video improvements, North Well #9 development and North Harborview Drive Sanitary Sewer replacement. Council expressed support for funding the Civic Center and Council Chambers improvements and supported funding the Well #9 project over the sewer replacement project. Staff will consider the option of using these funds for potential cost overruns on the construction of the Public Works Operations Center.
On June 28, Council approved Resolution 1212, which was the adoption of a six-year Transportation Improvement Plan for 2022 through 2027. Also passed at the council meeting was Resolution 1214 - Public Works Trust Fund Loan Opportunities and Gig Harbor North Crosswalk Improvements – Public Works Construction Contract Award.
Construction on our 38th Street Improvement project begins shortly, the new sidewalk addition will be a welcome sight for many, and we will continue to work up to the City Limit line, and in partnership with Pierce County on the potential continuation of that sidewalk past city limits.
If you’re interested in volunteering with the City, we have an opening on the Parks Commission, as one of our members is stepping down. The Parks Commission puts a wonderful amount of work in to maintaining Gig Harbor’s quality of life, and it’s a great introduction to public service. I encourage you to apply if you’re interested at cityofgigharbor.net.
This coming week, we’ll bid our goodbyes to retiring City Administrator Bob Larson, and welcome interim City Administrator Tony Piasecki. We again express our thanks to Bob for a job well done navigating the City through the pandemic, and welcome Tony back as Interim City Administrator to help us set the course for our next chapter here at the City.
With the 4th of July weekend upon us, I’ve received several calls about today’s Pierce County Council vote on a potential fireworks ban for the county – it did not move forward. As a reminder, the City of Gig Harbor has passed a one-day window for fireworks, which will begin in 2022. For this year, there is a four-day window, from 9:00a – 11:00p on July 1-3, 2021; and 9:00a – Midnight on July 4,2021.
However - I urge you to consider celebrating this year without the use of fireworks, as the risk of fires is extremely high due to our continuing dry weather and historic heatwave. Setting off fireworks not only affects your safety and personal property, but other people’s safety and lives. I’ve personally known two people whose houses have burned to the ground due to smoldering fireworks on the roof.
We are very excited to see our city coming back to life, and for a wonderful summer ahead. I wish you al a happy and healthy 4th of July weekend. Please be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.