Fresh eyes see city’s potential

Newly appointed city administrator Ron Williams talks about his first month

Staff writerJune 25, 2014 

Ron Williams hasn’t been on the job long, but he’s been getting up to speed on city issues.

As the new city administrator, he presented at the Public Affairs Forum at Cottesmore of Life Care on Thursday morning. Gig Harbor mayor Jill Guernsey was there to answer questions about city issues as well.

“Ron has really been a spark to city hall,” Guernsey said.

Williams, a University Place resident, said he’s been spreading the word on the other side of the bridge about Gig Harbor.

One thing Williams addressed for the crowd at the Chamber-sponsored meeting is permitting in the city.

“I know permitting can be a chore for developers,” he said. “We are trying to be as flexible as we can.”

However, the city needs to maintain standards to maintain the character of the harbor.

One way to free up staff is online permitting and permitting by appointment. About 70 percent of building applications are done online, Williams said, saving the city from hiring about two staff members.

The online and by appointment processes allow the city to do more with a smaller staff.

Being able to handle things effectively is crucial as the South Sound preps for a huge professional sports event: The 2015 U.S. Open.

A new committee has formed in the city to talk about ways that bring tourists and visitors to Gig Harbor. The committee is working on catchphrases like “Gig Harbor: The 19th Hole.”

It’s a way to have visitors “before, during and after,” the tournament, Williams said.

Jennifer Kester, director of the city’s planning department, was on hand for questions as well.

She said a new Fred Meyer store and family fun center slated for the Olympic Town Center is on track. The developers hope to begin buildings in early fall.

The main concern over in the Point Fosdick area is traffic, and Guernsey acknowledged the issue.

“We are trying to be somewhat proactive,” she said.

The city is making State Route 16 and traffic improvements its top legislative priority. The hope is state funding for a traffic study on SR 16 that may lead to some traffic solutions.

“As you can see, (SR 16) jams up at every interchange,” Guernsey said.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 Twitter: @Gateway_Karen

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