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Sep 17

Mayor's Update - September 16, 2021

Posted on September 17, 2021 at 10:04 AM by Joshua Stecker

It has come to our attention that our city website’s blog platform is not able to recognize and correctly display the characters used in the Twulshootseed and Lushootseed Languages. The misspellings in my previous blog post are unintentional and, unfortunately, unavoidable.

 

This underscores the need for our efforts to help the Puyallup Tribe bring awareness and recognition to their language. Will we do our due diligence to make sure this is fixed on our website.

 

Good Day Gig Harbor,

 

With school back in session and the return of a little bit of rain, fall is here in Gig Harbor. Personally, I love the changing leaves and feel of fall in the air here in our city this time of year. I know many parents have their children returning to school now. We are happy for them. Many of our youth have not seen their fellow classmates for one to two years which has to be extremely hard for them, and they will need added care and love to get through this tough time.  

 

With the rise of the Delta variant, the COVID case rate is at the second highest it has ever been, at 667 cases per 100,000 in Pierce County. Further state directives on restrictions for large gatherings, we know several organizations throughout town have had to make hard calls on cancelling events – and that includes the City. We were sad to miss out on Summer Sounds concerts from The Paperboys and Nate Botsford, and our showing of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for our Movies in the Park series. Both will be back next summer when we’re able to safely gather again.

 

Our Civic Center is open. We are not requiring our front desk staff to ask citizens proof of vaccination, but masks are required and available at the front door if you do not have one. If you cannot or choose not to wear a mask, we cannot serve you in person, and encourage you to interact via phone or our website for city services. 

 

I again urge you to get vaccinated if you have not been yet. Cases that reach the hospital are mostly people who have not received the vaccine. Even if vaccinated, you’ll need to wear a mask in public indoor settings, and outside when you cannot socially distance. 

 

So far, over 940,000 doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 450,000 are fully vaccinated, a rise of about 40,000 more fully vaccinated people than when we last reported a month ago. That means 49% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and 56% are partially vaccinated. Yet those numbers may be higher, as some people have been vaccinated in other cities or states that may not be included in that final number. You can see Gig Harbor’s specific metrics at www.tpchd.org. Please be a good example for our youth as they look to you for guidance. 

 

City projects are in high gear, we are working to accomplish many before the weather changes. New RFIB (rapid flashing beacons) have been installed at the Gig Harbor North crosswalks to make pedestrian safety a priority, especially with the new Swift Water Elementary welcoming students nearby. I hear hundreds of students and parents are using the crosswalks, which means fewer cars and congestion on the roads. 

Our utility relocation project at Stinson and Harborview began on August 23 and included a one-way street closure. From September 7-11, Harborview was closed from Stinson to North Harborview to repair and relocate the existing damaged sewer main before it fails, as well as relocating the water main and storm sewer lines. This sewer main serves 40% of Gig Harbor, and if it failed, it could have resulted in raw sewage entering the bay. 

Time was of the essence, especially as this project was weather-dependent and needed to have this important piece happen quickly. We know it was an imposition – and that traffic on the planned detours went extremely slowly due to a multi-car pileup on SR 16. We couldn’t have planned for the accident on 16, but we did approve an extension on the time the contractor could work (outside of the noise ordinance hours) in order to complete this project as soon as possible. Harborview between Stinson and N. Harborview will have a one-way closure through November 1, please plan accordingly. Work will pause until March 1, 2022, when the roundabout installation will take place to massively upgrade the safety of that intersection. We thank you for your patience while we complete this crucial project. 

In other traffic news, at the City Council meeting on August 9, City Engineer Trent Ward reported on the City’s speed survey on Harborview Drive near Stinson (before the construction project). The study found that 85% of traffic traveled at less than 23 miles per hour. We appreciate the focus on safety on the roads from the large majority of Harborites. Councilmembers were invited to submit other locations to conduct speed surveys, too. 

Many years ago, a Civic Center Debt reserve fund was created to help pay down the debt on our building. This fund had grown to over a million and we all feel now is the time to pay part of the $2,645,000 debt and rework the financing to a lower percentage. Our old finance charge was 4.5 percent. On September 13th, council agreed and approved this. Our new debt is 1.1 million with a new interest rate of .65 percent. This saves our general fund $365,000 per year. Or new debt will cost $230,000 per year and in 2026 the balance will be paid off.

 

In other news, the City and OPG, the developer of the Harbor Hill site, have reached a satisfactory conclusion, and the OPG lawsuit has been dismissed. We look forward to the development of a grocery store and shopping center at the site. The grocery store is set to come first, or at the same time as the other stores at that location.

 

Also on September 13, our Public Works Director, Jeff Langhelm, reported that the City is moving forward on acquiring the 11.5-acre North Creek Salmon Heritage Site / Harborview Drive Conservation Property. Pierce County Council approved legislation to use Conservation Futures funds to assist with the purchase of the forested site, just above Donkey Creek. The intent is to leave most of the site in its natural condition, while adding non-motorized trails, salmon viewing areas and an interpretive loop with signs for the public to learn about the historical and cultural significance of this the stream to the Puyallup Tribe. 

I encourage you to make a trip down to Austin Park – in the past few weeks, we have installed a new sign recognizing the sx???babs? (“swift water people”) band of the Puyallup Tribe that first resided in Gig Harbor. The park has been re-named Austin Park at tx?aalq?l Estuary, honoring the traditional Lushootseed name, meaning the “place where game exists.” We are also moving forward on the installation of an Honoring Symbol to be installed this November – a wonderful sculpture by artist Guy Capoeman. 


There is a lot of interest in how these traditional names are pronounced in the ancestral language of the Puyallup people, and I was pleased to work with the Puyallup Tribal Language Program to produce a voice box that is now available at the park. Audio buttons, powered by solar, give information on Honoring the First People; Restoring Relationships; sx???babs? - Swift Water People; tx?aalq?l – Restoring the Name; and tx??ls?ucid – Lushootseed Language.

Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank began work on their foundation for the new structure. I will be asking Council to support in my 2022 budget a one-time donation of $200,000 to help fund FISH’s building and/or ongoing program fund.

 

As a reminder, the deadline for 2022 LTAC grants is September 27, 2021. These grants are available to non-profits and for-profit businesses hosting events that draw tourism to the City of Gig Harbor. The application form is available on our website, and you can email communications@gigharborwa.gov with any questions. This will be the second year we award an increased amount of $125,000. The maximum ask per project is $20,000 and grant funds are distributed as reimbursements for expenses. 

 

Please feel free to sign up and watch my Live Facebook once a month. It is again, on Sept. 17th at 10:00AM. You can always catch it afterwards, ask questions that we can answer or connect with others on the forum. Be safe out there, drive carefully, and remember to be kind to each other.

 

Cheers,

 

Kit