Good Day Gig Harbor,
Our trees have shed their leaves, and we are experiencing those stormy, blustery days where it feels great to be outside, but even better to get back indoors. Be careful on slick roads, and remember, if there is water over the roadway, turn around, don’t drown.
I am pleased with how our city handled the latest storm. We have seen some terrible destruction in this state, neighboring states and B.C. related to flooding, yet we were spared most of it here in our city. I would like to thank our Public Works crew that have kept up on the road and park maintenance that I feel helped us through this.
Locally, the COVID case rate has slowed to 240 new cases here in Gig Harbor in the last month, but we’ve also added in four new deaths, bringing the total to 40 members of our community lost.
The case rate in Pierce County also continues to drop, at 351 cases per 100,000 down from 492 in October 2021. Over 1.1 million doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 522,944 are fully vaccinated. That means 57% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated.
Last week, vaccines were approved for the 5 to 11-year-old age range as well, meaning our young people may start to see a return to normal. The numbers may be slightly higher given that some people have been vaccinated in other counties or states, not reflected in this number. You can see Gig Harbor’s specific metrics at www.tpchd.org.
In City Council meetings over the past month, we heard an update on the marine railway project underway at the Gig Harbor Boat Shop from John McMillan. The City has invested over $3 million in grants and $3.3 million in city funds to restore the boat shop and reconstruct these functional marine railways in order to preserve our maritime heritage and keep this a functioning part of our working waterfront since we purchased the boat shop in 2013. We also heard a report from another pillar of the Gig Harbor community, the Mary Bridge Thrift Store, which has been active in the city since 1949.
Along with our Finance Director and Interim City Administrator, I presented the City’s preliminary 2022 budget in late October and presented edits Council made in study session in November for public comment. The City’s 2022 budget is slated for a second reading, and to be approved at the November 22 Council Meeting. We have accomplished a good amount in these last four years, while always focusing on fiscal responsibility.
Also from Finance, Director Dave Rodenbach presented the resolutions which establish no changes to the city’s property tax levies for 2022.
In a report from our Interim City Administrator, we heard that Pierce County’s Planning Department has notified the City that they intend to comply with SEPA requirements when approving developments in the City’s Urban Growth Area. This is a big win, as it means new projects will properly contribute to traffic impacts, new roadways, impacts to wastewater and align more closely with setbacks and retention of trees and foliage. I commend our Community Development Department for working on this with me to get Pierce County to conform.
We reviewed an ordinance to repeal the City’s ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, which had been put on hold for COVID concerns. The City’s ban is now redundant with the State’s bag ban in effect as of October 1.
Our Public Works Director, Jeff Langhelm, presented an ordinance updating the City’s Shoreline Master Program to comply with applicable laws and amendments provided by the Department of Ecology and in order ensure consistency with the City’s Comp Plan.
Council also took action to change the requirements for the Design Review Board, changing from requiring an architect in two positions, opening one seat to an interested community member. This change was recommended by the Board & Commission Candidate Review Board.
We were also pleased to introduce an ordinance to allow the City to use $500,000 from ARPA (the American Rescue Plan Act) to support FISH Food Bank’s construction of a new facility. We feel FISH gives a great deal back to our community, and this initiative supports strengthening those most in need.
One of the pillars of my campaign and my time as Mayor has been the preservation of our city’s character, which is made up of several components, including our pristine environment and green spaces. I am proud of several land acquisitions made for conservation, including the acreage now known as Soundview Forest Park; an 11.5 acre spread north of Donkey Creek Park (the North Creek Salmon Heritage Site) which we’ve worked in partnership with the Pierce County Conservation Futures program and the Puyallup Tribe to conserve as a culturally significant parcel for the Tribe, as well as an environmentally significant opportunity to have salmon return to Donkey Creek.
Recently, the landowners of properties adjacent to the North Creek site (backing up to Burnham Drive and connecting to Cushman Trail) approached the City to see if we wanted to buy their land. This brings us a rare opportunity to purchase an additional 23 acres of forested land and salmon habitat only a couple blocks from the bay. The land is part of the original sx???babs?* village, includes the salmon-bearing North Creek/Donkey Creek running right through the property. The property has never been built on, so large natural cedars, maples, firs, and pines are unaltered, there is an existing primitive road/trail. This property is composed of six separate parcels and unless we conserve it, work is currently underway on the process of acquiring permits needed to develop over 40 homes on this land.
We have made an offer on the property and signed a purchase and sale agreement with the owners to try to purchase the property, to save “as is” and close before the end of this year. Our due diligence period of sixty days began on November 1st. We also are getting a Complete Survey, Title Report and Environmental Phase 1 to complete our due diligence process. Closing by the 28th of December is a big challenge, but these opportunities do not come by often -- and once developed, this forested land is gone forever.
This open space would be for everyone to enjoy. I’ve had the opportunity to walk this land and believe it would be a wonderful parcel to retain trees and green spaces as development continues in this area of Gig Harbor North. City Council and I are very supportive of this rare opportunity, but we also want the public to have their chance to comment and hear about it.
So, Monday night, tonight at our November 22 Council Meeting, I will give a presentation and show a video of the land. Public Comment on Non-Agenda Items will follow - this is when we hope to hear from the community. The public will also be able to comment at the December 13 Council Meeting as well. We hope the community is as excited as we are about this opportunity. I encourage you to listen in on Zoom or attend in person with a mask.
In another accomplishment in our city’s parks, I was able to oversee the final installation of the pylon panels at Austin Park at tx?aalq?l* Estuary, which outline the history of our first peoples, better known as a band of the Puyallup Tribe called sx???babs?.*
This is part of the honorary designation for educational and awareness where the City recognizes and honors the fact that Gig Harbor is built upon the homelands and villages of these Peoples. We have installed five ¼-inch thick stainless-steel panels that are 40” x 15” and are installed on five concrete pylons that were repurposed from the original foundation supporting the bridge in this area. The panels are titled as follows: “Before Gig Harbor;” “sx???babs?*- the swift water people;” “The Puyallup Tribe;” “After Medicine Creek;” and “The Daylighting of Donkey Creek.”
The panels also tell the story of the Lutshootseed language of the Puyallup Tribe. tx?aalq?l* means "place where game exists.” I hope each of you have a chance to find your way down to the park to take a peaceful walk through our park and hopefully, learn more about the context and history of the land we enjoy every day. Soon, the directional signs and others will be reinstalled there as well.
We also have good news on two items – our Parks, Recreation and Open Space survey has closed, and our staff will be implementing long-term vision and desires shared by our citizens. We are also looking forward to welcoming Parks Manager Matthew Keough to the City of Gig Harbor, he’ll be starting with us as soon as possible.
Our Intergovernmental Affairs Committee has reviewed goals of our 2022 Legislative Agenda with our lobbyists, Gordon Thomas Honeywell, and Council adopted the resolution accepting these. Our top goals will be to pursue legislation on the state and federal levels that works to relieve congestion on State Route 16; funding for our Sports Complex; and modification of changes in state law adopted in the last Legislative session regarding police use of force and pursuit policies.
I want to congratulate Councilmember Tracie Markley on her election as Gig Harbor’s next Mayor. It is a job that comes along with challenges and rewards, and I know she’ll do a great job. I am committed to a smooth transition, and through the end of my term, I welcome her involvement and seek her input on decisions I am making now that will affect the City after I leave office.
Congratulations to our new Councilmembers as well, Seth Storset, Brenda Lykins and Roger Henderson; and a sincere thank you to Councilmembers Bob Himes, Jim Franich and Spencer Abersold for their service to our community as their terms end.
Coming up in our next City Council Meeting tonight, Monday November 22, we will also be swearing in our new Municipal Court Judge, Sandy Allen. I am thrilled she was selected, and we are honored to have her preside over our City of Gig Harbor Court. We are also hoping to pass our Cultural Arts elements which would add goals and policies pertaining to arts and culture to our City’s Comprehensive Plan; and Council will review potential rate for storing kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards at the new Ancich Park storage facility. If these are items of interest, you can find details on how to log in and attend the Council meeting virtually or in person.
A word of caution as we head into the holiday season – this week, an alcohol-impaired driver crossed a roadway centerline and struck one of our Gig Harbor Police Department vehicles. Thankfully, neither the officer nor the impaired driver was seriously injured. The patrol car is a total loss and must be replaced. This is a vivid reminder to not drink and drive. With the holiday party season approaching, I ask that you always use a designated driver and never get behind the wheel after drinking.
On Sunday, December 5 at 5:30 p.m., I invite you to join me either in person or virtually for our annual Tree Lighting in Skansie Park. Special guest Santa Claus will join me in counting down for a spectacular tree our Public Works crew is working to source from JBLM. We’ll also have local acapella group, the Holiday Soundsations performing holiday music as well.
I invite you to sign up and watch my Live Facebook once a month, my last live Q&A will take place on Friday, December 17 at 10:00a on our City Facebook page. We will be giving a presentation on some of our accomplishments over the last four years. You can always catch it afterwards, ask questions that we can answer or connect with others on the forum.
Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving holiday – we have so much to be grateful for here in the City of Gig Harbor. I hope you enjoy the holiday in good health – and remember to be kind to each other.
*All Lushootseed language characters are, unfortunately, not translating the correct characters within our web program. To accurately represent their intended spelling and pronunciation, please visit: www.puyalluptriballanguage.org/about/.