Gig Harbor asks Legislature for help with sports complex, road projects
Gig Harbor’s legislative agenda heading into the session that begins Monday, Jan. 9, looks much the same as the past few years.
The city is asking for the state’s help in funding its sports complex and road improvements to alleviate congestion on Wollochet Drive and Borgen Boulevard. New this year is a request for money to perform a waterfront climate resiliency study.
The Legislature alternates between 105-day and 90-day sessions. This is a long session, during which it passes operating, transportation and capital budgets. The two-year budgets run from July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2025.
$2 million request for sports complex
The city is again seeking $2 million from the state capital budget for the sports complex’s Phase 1B. That phase includes pickleball and bocce ball courts, a playground, event lawn, sheltered performance stage, two covered picnic areas and parking.
However, city staff learned from lawmakers Monday that only $2 million is available for the entire 26th District, said Gig Harbor City Administrator Katrina Knutson. The district extends from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge into Bremerton.
“They did indicate it would be a stretch to give the city all $2 million of our ask, but all three appeared to have a strong commitment to our project,” Knutson said.
Progress on the sports complex isn’t dependent on this request. The city has budgeted $5.2 million for the project in 2023-24 from various sources, including a $500,000 state Recreation and Conservation Grant, a $200,000 state appropriation, and hospital benefit zone and general fund dollars.
“If they come through with the $2 million to offset our local costs, the council could put additional funding toward Phase 2, which we have approved a ($60,000) feasibility study for, or reallocate those funds for a different project,” Knutson said.
Phase 2 includes developing sports fields surrounding the existing Little League fields.
Local legislators support it
“I know it’s a good idea and an important project and I’ll work to try and get the resources that they need,” Sen. Emily Randall said. Randall, D-Bremerton, is entering her second four-year term after defeating former state Rep. Jesse Young in November’s general election, 50.8% to 49.1%.
Filling Young’s former seat is Spencer Hutchins, R-Gig Harbor, who eked past Adison Richards by 735 votes out of 74,942 cast.
“I absolutely support the sports complex,” Hutchins said. “When I was on the city council (from 2017 to 19) I was working on that issue. I’m eager to see it be developed. Each district has limited resources available for capital projects, but we’ll see how things go.”
The YMCA, as a city partner in the sports complex, is “making good progress” in raising funds for Phase 1A. That phase includes two turfed, lighted fields north of the Y. The organization expects to submit permits this month, Knutson said.
Permits for Phase 1B were turned in this week. Construction could begin in the fall and wrap up by mid-2024, Knutson said.
Money sought for three road projects
Gig Harbor is asking for $1.45 million from the state transportation budget for three congestion-relief projects.
Like last year, the city is requesting $400,000 to add a right-turn lane from Wollochet Drive to the westbound on-ramp to the Highway 16. The city also seeks $550,000 for a right-turn slip lane for the eastbound off-ramp to Wollochet. These would allow more vehicles to move through the intersections during green lights.
Farther north, Gig Harbor is requesting $500,000 to meter traffic into the two-lane Borgen Boulevard roundabout. The city is conducting a $75,000 traffic analysis and conceptual design review this year before determining how to proceed, said Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm. It could wind up resembling a ramp metering system in Richland.
“We are requesting funding for future construction of whatever comes out of that conceptual design,” Langhelm said.
Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, begins her fifth two-year term in the House. She defeated Matt Macklin in November, 56.2% to 43.8%.
“All three of us are on the same page” on the road projects, she said. “We want to get those priorities into the transportation budget this year. Sometimes politics comes before good policy, and I hope it doesn’t this year.”
Much of the $16.9 billion, 16-year Move Ahead Washington transportation revenue package passed last year is devoted to increasing capacity. This year’s transportation budget will focus on safety improvements, Randall said. The Legislature must also make sure that with all the Move Ahead projects being built that it can accommodate new ones.
Hutchins was dealing with the same proposed road projects when he sat on the city council.
“It’s been three years since I left city council and these issues haven’t gone away,” he said. “They continue to be high priorities for the city of Gig Harbor. I have a strong commitment in helping the city achieve those transportation priorities.”
$250,000 wanted for climate study
New to the legislative agenda this session is Gig Harbor’s $250,000 request from the state operating budget for a waterfront climate resiliency study. The work would determine possible impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, and how the city can mitigate them.
“It was a really good example last week when we had the king tide. It was possible to see what we’ll see in the future,” Knutson said.
The study would identify flood-prone areas and what changes to city infrastructure such as wastewater, storm water and roads would be needed to prepare for rising seas.
“Our hope is by preplanning we can work toward them prior to them becoming an emergency which would be a much larger impact to our residents,” Knutson said.
“That’s one of our caucus priorities to look at what we can do about climate resilience,” Randall said. “One thing I’m thinking about, is there a way to fund a project like this one for downtown Gig Harbor out of that capital bucket that will be funded by the Climate Commitment Act.”
“I would hope that given the emphasis that it seems like the governor and state Legislature are placing on the environment and the climate that this would be a budget priority that we could make progress on and secure,” Hutchins said. “We can’t promise anything. But this fits in line with a lot of priorities across both parties in the Legislature and certainly what we’ve heard from the governor.”
“That comes through a different bucket of money than the member projects, like the sports complex,” Caldier said. “That is fairly realistic to get done.”
Law enforcement changes
The city also supports the Legislature relaxing rules restricting law enforcement pursuit of suspects. It also is pushing to enact a “simple possession criminal offense statute” for possession of illegal drugs. The statute should incentivize “treatment and accountability” in response to the State vs. Blake court decision that effectively legalized possession of drugs.
And it would like the state to make grants available to cities that want to remove fish-blocking culverts.