The Gig Harbor City Council on Monday unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the YMCA for long-awaited Gig Harbor Sports Complex, prompting cheers and applause from the large audience.
“I am very pleased with our work,” said Mayor Kit Kuhn. “This final version of the MOU captures the goals of the community and paves the path for a successful partnership.”
Charlie Davis, president and CEO at YMCA Pierce and Kitsap Counties, responded in kind, saying he feels the memorandum is a great product of compromise between the city and the organization.
“I am proud of the YMCA. We stood in and are making this happen,” Davis said.
The celebratory mood was somewhat dampened a little later, when members of the public took Mayor Kit Kuhn to task for failing to appoint an interim city administrator, charging that this gave him too much power.
But the 7-0 vote on the sports complex was the highlight of the meeting, and led to a round of applause from a full-house audience, many of whom left after the vote.
Even council member Bob Himes, who had been skeptical about funding parts of the project, voted for the agreement in the end.
The sports complex, long sought by Gig Harbor youth and sports groups, is to be built north of the YMCA at 10550 Harbor Hill Dr. The site is west of Harbor Hill Drive and generally southeast of Costco. Construction would be started in 2020.
The project has two phases. The first, called Phase A1, will include two lighted, turf fields, 100 parking spaces, a restroom, and a concession structure.
Phase 1B is funding-dependent, meaning the city may need to pay for it. It will cost $1.9 million, and will include a playground, event lawn, bocce ball court, pickle ball court, paved and unpaved trails, picnic shelters, and additional parking.
Himes said he is very supportive of phase 1B specifically, and said he wants the city to take up and design the section of the complex.
The council now needs to develop a legal lease with the YMCA.
“It will take everyone in the city to step forward and contribute to the project,” Council Member Michael Perrow said. “It’s a deal of a lifetime, in my mind.”
Later in the Oct 14 meeting, Thomas Wick, a Gig Harbor resident, raised the concern that Mayor Kuhn has amassed too much power, filling in for the city administrator along with his role as mayor.
“I find it particularly disturbing that you are filling the city administrator role along with the role of mayor,” Wick said. “Right now, your powers are unlimited. You can do whatever you would like to do.”
The former city administrator, Wade Ferris, was forced to resign in July after being accused by Kuhn of treating women on the staff “differently than men.” Ferris, a retired Air Force general, has denied the allegation, but accepted a settlement with the city.
Wick said the Mayor should have appointed an interim city administrator, saying there are plenty of city employees that are competent to take on the role, calling it an ‘”abuse of power” for the mayor to hold onto both jobs.
Kuhn said he has been interviewing candidates for the position and his staff have narrowed down their choices to three candidates.
“We are pleased to say three candidates moved forward. They are highly qualified and they will have interviews with staff and council in two weeks,” Kuhn said. “Shortly after that we will make our decision.”
In other business, the city council:
▪ Approved a resolution expressing council’s intent to bestow the powers of initiative and referendum on the voters of Gig Harbor. The city will publish the notice of this proposed change to the city code. Opponents of the idea will have 90 days after publication to collect signatures against it. They would need 10 percent of those voting in the last general election.
Initiative and referendum give the public the opportunity to change a decision by city council. A petition with signatures of 15 percent of registered voters would require the city council either to adopt the issue, or submit it to the voters.
“When citizens do have this power they tend to me more engaged and attend more meetings,” Council Member Jeni Woock said. “As the city council, we have the ability to do the right thing and put this in your city code.”
▪ Approved an ordinance regulating temporary signage by a vote of 4-3. In a change from the previous version, the ordinance prohibits temporary signs located in rights-of-way adjacent to government-owned facilities and properties.
▪ Approved the final plat of the courtyards at Skansie Park, located at the northeast corner of Hunt Street and Skansie Avenue. This plat includes 174 single-family resident lots and five open-space tracts.
▪ Authorized the mayor to execute a $153,665 contract with HDR Engineering, Inc. for the design of the replacement of water system Lift Station #6 at Ryan Street and Cascade Avenue. This will include the installation of a new wet-well structure. The 2019 budget set aside $140,000 for this project. Additional money may be allocated from a machinery maintenance fund.
▪ Recognized Communities In Schools Site Coordinator Lara Unger on her work with the children of Peninsula schools. (See story Page 1A)
Editor’s note: Mayor Kit Kuhn takes issue with some elements of this story. He denies that it was he who accused former city administrator Wade Ferris of treating women differently than men. He also said only one person, not two, complained about him at Monday’s council meeting for not hiring a interim city administrator and that the man was not a Gig Harbor resident.