Good Day Gig Harbor,
I am happy to announce that Nevin Harrison, representing the USA at the Tokyo 2021 World Olympics just won the gold medal in the 200-meter canoe race on Wednesday evening. She trained with the Gig Harbor Canoe & Kayak Racing Team, and we congratulate her and coach Alan, coach Aaron, the other support coaches and all of her Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing teammates. Our community is very proud and supportive of our hometown team and appreciate all they do for us. I spoke with Coach Alan and he thanks the community for their support over all these years and appreciates the value we place on the team.
We’re in full swing here in beautiful Gig Harbor summer, enjoying the Summer Sounds at Skansie concerts on Tuesdays, farmers market on Thursdays and Movies in the Park on Fridays. Visit the City’s Facebook page for upcoming events, at facebook.com/cityofgigharbor.
As a city, we’re still navigating what re-opening looks like, especially in the wake of a rising number of COVID cases with the highly contagious Delta variant spreading. Hospitals are reporting higher numbers of cases, with 533 cases confirmed in Pierce County on August 3 alone. That’s the largest spike we’ve seen since December 2020. Cases that reach the hospital are mostly people who have not received the vaccine. I urge you to get the vaccine as soon as you can – we want to keep moving forward and getting back to our normal way of life.
If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, you’ll still need to wear a mask in public and observe social distancing. At several levels, strong recommendations to return to masking indoors for all – vaccinated or not – have been put in place. Businesses can choose whether or not they require masks or distancing on their own, and several large corporations, like Microsoft or Disney, have chosen to put this in place. Some companies and cities are considering mandatory vaccinations unless there are issues with underlying health problems or religious beliefs.
So far, close to 900,000 doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 419,301 are fully vaccinated, a rise of about 40,000 more fully vaccinated people than when we last reported, about a month ago. That means 46% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and 53% are partially vaccinated. You can see Gig Harbor’s metrics at www.tpchd.org. I have met many locals that were vaccinated in other locations, so the Pierce County numbers may not include those who have been vaccinated elsewhere, our actual numbers may be even higher.
We re-opened to the public for the first time on July 26, had an employee test positive for COVID, and moved swiftly to inform the Health Department and work to minimize risk following their directives. Employees with exposure were sent home, vaccinated staff had the opportunity to return and mask at all times after a few days of remote work if they showed no symptoms of COVID; unvaccinated staff were required to quarantine for 14 days and mask upon return to work. As always, the health of our staff and citizens comes first. We are working with the Health Department on guidelines for masking in several scenarios.
All departments of the Civic Center re-open to the public on Monday, August 9. We are not requiring our front desk staff to ask citizens proof of vaccination, but masks are available, and remote opportunities for interaction are also still in place.
We are keeping our focus on achieving goals that are important to our citizens, below is a recap of what’s in motion over the last few weeks.
We celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the City of Gig Harbor’s incorporation on July 12, and I read a proclamation at our first Summer Sounds concert recognizing all of the elected officials, staff and citizens that have helped make Gig Harbor such a wonderful place to live and do business.
The Washington State Office of Financial Management provided the City with details on accepting our allocation of $2.9 million in ARPA Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. We should receive half in 2021, and half in 2022. Council gave me the authority to accept these funds in our Council Meeting on July 12. Council also met in study session on June 17 to discuss potential applications for these funds, which must be used by the end of 2024. The uses will be approved by Council in future budgets or budget amendments.
One of the potential uses of these funds is an IT upgrade of our Council Chambers audio and video systems, to support meetings and court sessions held in Council Chambers. Councilmembers gave their support for additional options to broadcast City Council meetings, noting that this is a great way to increase transparency in government, giving a wider set of the population the ability to attend Council meetings remotely.
In our July Council meetings, we heard an update from our finance Director Dave Rodenbach on the status of our Civic Center Debt bonds.
As of June 30, 2021, the City’s 2010 LTGO bonds had $2,645,000 outstanding debt available to be retired early. The City has $1,593,631 in the Civic Center Debt Reserve fund available to pay down a portion of this, with the remaining balance funded by the new LTGO bonds, not to exceed $1.15 million. The newly refunded bonds will mature June 1, 2026 and carry an estimated interest rate of 1.70%. This means we save ourselves just over $160, 000 in interest now, and approximately $368,000 per year in interest through 2026.
This fund was established for this very purpose in 2001 – to be excellent stewards of public funds and responsible with taxpayer dollars. Council and I are supportive of this and I hope to have this pass at our second reading at the August 9th City Council meeting.
Also, in July our Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm reported on the Emergency Water Intertie project for Canterwood Boulevard. He let us know the City is seeking Public Works Trust Fund Loans to help finance the project.
We have an update on the work happening in Gig Harbor North for installation of the rapid flashing beacons and crosswalk safety upgrades that were covered under the city’s settlement with OPG/Raytheon. Work is currently underway, with installation happening for a number of those crosswalks.
This fall, we’ll see work completed on the intersection at Harborview and Stinson. This is going to be a lengthy project, and this fall, we anticipate a full closure of the intersection for a few consecutive days for essential work on underground utility relocation, meaning there will be a detour across the highway for downtown access. The total project completion date for the installation of a roundabout will be in 2022.
In news on structures the City has interest in, I gave Council an overview of the property we acquired at 7601 Soundview – we’ll be accepting new tenants at market rate, and I’ve appointed Interim City Administrator Tony Piasecki to oversee that process. The new amount will offset the interest on the whole land and park purchase after two years. Again, fiscal responsibility is one of our top priorities, and a must for our citizens.
Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank informed Council of their future plans for their new facility which we were all very excited about. 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.
At the July 26 Council Meeting I updated Council that the City will postpone the public outreach and decisions concerning the future use of the Masonic Temple building until next year, there isn’t enough time to prepare in Fall of 2021.
I also reported that the City will be using the $10,000 included for tree planting in the 2021 Budget at several different locations around the City - Veteran’s Park, Crescent Creek Park, Soundview Forest and the Skate Park.
In our parks, we are making forward movement on the Honoring Symbol art piece at Austin Park, with an estimated installation completion of November, pending the permitting process. I am also working with entities that support the tribe for signage and a voice box for educational knowledge of our Native American Tribe down at tx?aalq?l Estuary.
Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm gave an update on the engineer’s estimate for the Community Paddlers’ Dock at Ancich Park, and the changes that were required on the reconstruction of the chimney at the Eddon Boat Park Brick House remodel.
Many of you have noticed a slow down in staffing and hiring throughout our community. At the City, our Human Resources Director, Kameil Borders, presented proposed staffing level changes for all departments, in order to accurately staff the City and provide services to our citizens.
Our Tourism and Communications Director, Laura Pettitt, reported on the success of a new LTAC grant structure instituted in 2021, in which we increased our commitment to the community by amplifying our grant structure for nonprofit operations and events by $100,000 per year. In 2021, the Tourism department took a test run on this structure, which set a cap of $20,000 per award, in order to ensure funds were equally distributed and encouraged a variety of new and former applicants. The process worked well, and LTAC recommended a continuation of the amounts for 2022. Applications for 2022 LTAC grant funding will be opened shortly.
Our Community Development Director, Katrina Knutson, reported on the City’s intergovernmental agreement with the South Sound Housing Affordability Partners, outlining the history of the coalition, the structure defining the program the Mayor has done with the group over three years and the City of Gig Harbor’s expectations and contributions. This is a big issue for our community and requires a coordinated regional effort to address for years to come.
We also heard from Community Development on the upcoming draining of the pond at Harbor Hill. Signage encouraging citizens not to dump their goldfish, turtles, lobsters or other pets into the pond. Goldfish are an endangered species and can grow extremely large and cause issues.
This Friday at Skansie Park, our outdoor movie is Moana starting at 8pm. Then next Tuesday August 10th is The Beatniks concert at 6pm – keep in mind, this is a big one, so make plans early as we’ll be closing Harborview Drive from 4:30p – 8:30p.
Keep enjoying your summer, be safe out there, be courteous and remember to be kind to each other.