City Council hears group’s plea for public aquatic center

Posted on January 12th, 2022 By:

Sarah Stancikas and Heather Maher, co-founders of Swim Safe Gig Harbor, presented their vision for a public aquatic center to the Gig Harbor City Council during its meeting Monday.

“Swimming is an essential life skill,” Maher told the Council. “Currently there is no public swimming pool in Gig Harbor. Swimming lessons are incredibly hard to get into at the YMCA. They are completely maxed out. How can our city be surrounded by water and our kids can’t find a place to (learn to) swim?”

Stancikas added that there are many potential uses for a public pool besides swimming lessons, including sports such as water polo and swim teams, fitness activities such as lap swimming and stand-up paddleboard yoga, and aquatic therapy for things like chronic back pain, recovery from sports injuries and traumatic brain injuries.

The Swim Safe group has more than 500 Facebook members and it has collected upwards of 1,000 signatures of support on a petition, the women said. They have been conferring with PenMet Parks about the possibility of turning the old Peninsula Gardens property into an aquatic center. PenMet recently approved a $105,000 feasibility study to determine viability of the idea.

Before the Council got down to business, Mayor Tracie Markley said that her first week on the job has “been great. The staff is even more phenomenal than I had realized.”

Interim City Administrator Tony Piasecki reported there are 25 vacant city staff positions, six of which have been posted on its website, including associate engineer and city administrator. It takes about three months, on average, to fill a position, according to HR Director Kameil Borders.

In its official business, the Council unanimously approved a 1 percent across-the-board raise for nonunion employees. Ordinance 1481 amended the 2022 budget to increase the non-represented employees’ salary scale to match union salaries. Piasecki explained that inflation was much higher than anticipated when the city adopted the most recent collective bargaining agreement with the union.

“So this request is equal to the request for increasing the Teamsters 117 General Union for 2022, an additional 1% for the non-represented employees,” Piasecki said. “Historically, the non-represented employees receive the same wage adjustment as both the general unit and supervisory unit in order to maintain a competitive wage structure for all positions.”

The only other business item was approving Resolution 1229, removing lodging tax funding from Crescent Valley Lavender Farm and reallocating the $5,000 to the Asia Pacific Cultural Center for the Korean ChuSeok Moon Festival. A review of the state’s lodging tax guidelines found that funds cannot be used to support private businesses. The resolution also confirmed that the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce be designated as the recipient of a $5,000 lodging tax grant for the Celtic Music Festival at Dunagan Irish Pub and Brewery. It was approved by unanimous vote.

Finance Director Dave Rodenbach estimated that lodging tax revenues for 2022 will be close to $400,000.

“We’re going to end up with a very healthy fund balance,” he said.

In response to a question from Councilmember Brenda Lykins, Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm said that work will resume on the Harborview/Stinson roundabout in March or April, when the weather clears. The city will conduct extensive public outreach well in advance of the work. He suggested that people who are interested should sign up for project alerts on the city’s website.

Community Development Director Katrina Knutson reported that city staff is closely following several bills being considered in the legislative session that opened Monday, including HB 1660 that stipulates that cities cannot require off-street parking for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that are within a quarter mile of mass transit. Staff is also watching HB 1711 that provides for an incentive to use impact fees to build ADUs, except for short-term rentals; and legislation that would require cities with populations of 10-20,000 people to allow for construction of duplexes on every family lot.

“We need to do everything we can to fight this because it would eliminate our single-family zoning here in Gig Harbor,” Councilmember Jeni Woock said.