The Gig Harbor Civic Center has been the topic of discussion recently, particularly the certificate of occupancy (CO) or lack thereof.
At the March 13 City Council meeting, Councilmember Michael Perrow read a prepared statement about his discovery that the Civic Center did not possess a CO and accused the city administration, past and present, of participating in a cover-up to conceal this fact.
However, the absence of a CO is not news to city staff members, who have been working the past 14 years — since the building was completed at the end of 2002 — to complete the necessary requirements, said City Administrator Ron Williams.
We never detected any cover-up on the part of any previous administration and we certainly never did (ourselves). A decision made back then to occupy the building prior to receiving the certificate of occupancy.
Ron Williams, city administrator
“We never detected any cover-up on the part of any previous administration and we certainly never did (ourselves),” Williams said. “A decision (was) made back then to occupy the building prior to receiving the certificate of occupancy.”
While it is not known why the decision to occupy the building was made at the time, the work toward the CO has continued since the building’s completion and at an accelerated rate since 2014, according to Paul Rice, the city’s building official, and Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm.
“2014 is when we started to move forward in earnest on getting these things checked off the list,” Langhelm explained. “In my mind, staff has been very up front (about this matter) with whoever has asked.”
2014 is when we started to move forward in earnest on getting these things checked off the list. In my mind staff has been very up front (about this matter) with whoever has asked.
Jeff Langhelm, Public Works director
The building has received annual inspections of the fire alarms and fire sprinklers, and in order to receive a CO the building will be verified to meet current construction codes, Rice said.
“We do have permits for all the work that has been done in the Civic Center,” he said. “We’re closing the loop on all these little but very important things.”
Some of the listed items that needed to be addressed for the CO include updating signage, having the fire lanes outside the building stenciled and painted and meeting both federal and state accessibility codes for things such as grab bars and reach heights on shelving.
“Technically they’re small (projects), but dollarwise they’re large,” Langhelm said.
Public Works staff is responsible for the maintenance of the building and much of the work toward the CO has been performed by those staff members, along with regularly scheduled duties and despite budgetary restrictions.
The goal is to have the necessary projects completed for the CO by the end of the year, with the longest wait being for the work that will be contracted out instead of completed by Public Works staff.
“Personally, I’m just really excited that we have Council support now,” Rice said. “They’re willing to put money and effort into getting this done now. I’ve had administrative support … but you’ve got to have financial backing as well, and they’re supportive now. That’s a good and exciting thing for me.”