Mayor’s Message: how Fircrest voted on the park bond

The voters of Fircrest spoke loud and clear on April 23 when they overwhelmingly approved the park bond to pay for a new pool and community center as well as other park improvements.

In case you haven’t seen them, here are the final numbers from the special election:

YES     1,716   79.15%

NO          452   20.85%

The final vote tally was 2,168, which was far ahead of the minimum 1,418 needed in order for the results to be validated. And a final piece of trivia: 681 ballots were submitted via the Pierce County ballot drop box at Fircrest City Hall.

As they say on TV, “but wait, there’s more!” We have promised to continue seeking grants and donations to fund this project, and I’m excited to let you know about a big achievement. The three-member delegation that represents us in the Legislature — Rep. Mari Leavitt, Rep. Christine Kilduff, and Sen. Steve O’Ban of the 28th Legislative District — helped us get a $1 million grant from the state. That’s the Legislature’s second grant for this project, and it brings the state’s total contribution to $1.75 million. We are very grateful for the strong support from our legislators, and I hope you will take a moment to share your appreciation when you see the them in the community.

On behalf of the City of Fircrest, I want to thank a number of people who contributed their time and talent to get us to this point.

First, I thank the residents who volunteered to serve on the project steering committee. This group met throughout 2018 and into mid 2019 to do a deep dive into every aspect of the pool and community center, including building design, layout, landscaping, furnishings, and the business plan. They represented a cross-section of the community, including families, seniors, the Fircrest Soccer Club, the Kiwanis Club, and more.

Second, I thank our staff and City Council members. City Manager Scott Pingel and Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Grover served as the points of contact with ARC Architects and the steering committee. Councilmember Brett Wittner served as chairman of the steering committee, and Councilmembers Blake Surina and Shannon Reynolds helped represent the Council during those in-depth discussions.

This project began five years ago when we updated the City of Fircrest’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan. Since then, a lot of people have put a lot of work into developing and designing a new pool and community center that will serve future generations. Thanks to overwhelming support from voters, we are putting that plan into action.

Mayor’s Message: Pool and Recreation Center update

Mayor’s Message for the December 2018 Town Topics newsletter

When I last wrote about the pool and recreation center in the March edition, we had just hired ARC Architects and we were in the process of appointing a steering committee of Fircrest residents who volunteered to help guide the project. They’ve been very productive, and I want to share this update with you.

The City Council received valuable input from the steering committee and the architects and made some decisions in November:

  • We unanimously agreed to put a combined pool and recreation center replacement project on the ballot in April 2019. Voters will make the final decision.
  • We considered two design options for the pool, and while both versions included a “kiddie pool” we chose the design that separates it from the main pool.
  • If approved by voters, the project would be built in two phases. The pool construction would start as soon as the summer 2019 season ends, with the goal of opening the new pool in time for the 2020 season. Construction of the new recreation center would start a couple of years later.

With those decisions made, we were working at the time of this writing (in mid-November) to finalize the design and complete the cost estimates.

We are working hard to seek outside sources of funding to alleviate the burden on taxpayers. To date, we have secured a generous $1 million grant from the Edwards Family Foundation, $750,000 from the Washington Legislature for the pool replacement, and $750,000 in City of Fircrest reserves. We are working on plans to request several million dollars from other philanthropic foundations, and we plan to ask for another grant from the Legislature for the community center portion of the project.

The pool and recreation center have been the centerpiece of our community since 1962. Public surveys conducted in 2017 and 2018 both showed very strong support for taking the steps necessary to ensure we have quality facilities for community use for years to come.

The city will continue to post updated information here in the “Up-To-Date Information” area of the website.

I want to close by thanking everyone who served on the project steering committee, and everyone who took the time to take the surveys that influenced the design. This is not a City Council project. It’s a city project.

I hope all of you have an enjoyable and fulfilling holiday season.

Mayor’s Message: working on temporary and longterm solutions for the pool

Mayor’s Message for the March 2018 Town Topics newsletter

I love springtime in the Pacific Northwest. Our parks and yards feel fresh and ready for something new. (To be honest, it helps that I don’t suffer any allergies…)

The city feels that way, too. Our new city manager and new City Council have been busy setting work plans and priorities. At the top of the list is the important work of ensuring that the 1960s-era Roy H. Murphy Community Center and pool are restored and updated in a way that keeps them viable for years to come.

In recent weeks, we hired contractors to assess and repair cracks in the main water pipe that serves the pool. It’s a short-term fix that should enable us to keep the pool operating for another season or two while we work on long-term plans for the facility.

Regarding those long-term plans, I have good news to share.

First, the city hired ARC Architects to develop schematic designs. This firm specializes in recreation and community centers, and we are excited about utilizing their expertise. We also will appoint a citizen steering committee to help guide the project through 2019. If you are interested in serving on that committee, contact City Manager Scott Pingel. And if you feel you don’t have the time to offer to that committee, that’s OK. We will use a variety of means to keep you updated — including this newsletter — and seek your feedback.

There’s more good news — the Washington Legislature awarded Fircrest a $750,000 grant to help our small city rebuild the community pool. We have a lot of work to do with ARC and the community to develop the pool’s design, but this grant will help alleviate some of the cost. We are grateful to the legislators who serve the 28th District — Sen. Steve O’Ban and Reps. Christine Kilduff and Dick Muri — for sponsoring our grant application and working to make sure it was included in the state’s construction budget.

I look forward to sharing more updates throughout the year. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

South Sound Proud: #LiveLikeTheMountainIsOut every day

I recently got invited to be a guest on Marguerite Giguere’s Move to Tacoma podcast. I went on with the goal of talking about 6 new things that add to the Tacoma/Piece County region’s coolness factor.

  1. Sound Sound Proud: the campaign to “Live Like the Mountain Is Out.” I’ve had the privilege of working on this project for over a year with a great group of communicators. That slogan speaks to our attitude – our state of mind – about living here.
  2. The Downtown to Defiance trolley, which starts June 2nd.
  3. The new Pacific Seas Aquarium that’s under construction at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Coming in mid 2018: hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, giant Japanese spider crabs, and more!
  4. A new 11-acre park at Point Defiance Park also opens in 2018. It will feature an event lawn, a paved trail linking Ruston Way with Point Defiance, a pedestrian bridge offering incredible views, a series of slides down a steep hill, and more boat trailer parking. Think Gasworks Park, only better.
  5. One of my favorite projects to be a part of is the development of the Eastside Community Center in a part of Tacoma that badly needs it. Features will include an amazing pool, a gym, social hall, teaching kitchen, recording studio, multipurpose rooms, cafe and more.
  6. Swan Creek Park: did you know that Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance members tallied thousands of volunteer hours as they built over 5 miles of trails in this huge park in East Tacoma? People are coming from far away to ride these trails.

Before we got to all of that, Marguerite and I talked about civic engagement, my experiences on the Fircrest City Council, and of course, what caused me to move here.

You can find a link to our conversation here.

And check out her website’s section on Fircrest here.

KING 5’s Joyce Taylor visits her hometown of Tacoma

KING 5 morning news anchor Joyce Taylor is a Tacoma girl, and proud of it. Her morning program does a regular gig called “Beyond the Studio” in which they spend a four-hour show in one community and tell a number of stories about people and places.

Joyce decided to come to Tacoma’s historic Hilltop neighborhood – where she grew up – to show viewers how much has changed in Tacoma over the years. She interviewed a number of folks, including Jon Kettler, who started Tacoma’s Innovative Schools program (SOTA, SAMI and IDEA), Steph Farber, the jeweler and longtime downtown Tacoma advocate, and the Rev. Anthony Steele of Allen AME Church.

She invited me on to talk about some great Metro Parks Tacoma successes, including the new $8 million pool and other improvements at People’s Community Center. We also talked about the challenges of trying to provide services to preschoolers, youth, teens, young adults and older adults in one community center. And I got to brag for a minute about our great partnerships with Tacoma Public Schools, including agreements to bus kids from Jason Lee Middle School to People’s for swim lessons, and our Elementary Sports Program that doubled youth participation in recreational sports by offering the activities on-site at 35 elementary schools.

I met with Joyce twice, and I love her enthusiasm and affection for our community. I’m hoping to invite her back to speak at a local event or two.

Here’s the 2 1/2-minute segment.

Rec Center and pool feasibility study set to get started

On Nov. 16, the Fircrest City Council voted to approve a contract with ARC Architects to assess the condition of the Roy H. Murphy Recreation Center building and pool, and offer options for renovation or possibly replacement.

Background: The building and pool were constructed in the 1960s. The pool got an update in the 1990s thanks to voter approval of a park bond. Among other things, that bond paid for a liner that was supposed to last 10 years. We are now on year 18 or so.

In 2014, we approved something known in government circles as a PROS plan, which stands for Parks, Recreation and Open Space (scroll down this page to find links to it). Some of you will recall we had a couple of open houses and recorded lots of ideas for every one of our parks, which cover 27 acres over six sites. That plan didn’t address the future of the Rec Center and pool because that consultant was hired to help us craft an overall plan that serves as the foundation for grant requests and capital needs. The first priority identified in the PROS plan is to hire engineers and architects to assess the current building.

Which brings us to this update. As I reported, we approved a contract with ARC, which will provide concepts for building renovation, expansion or replacement. In turn, ARC has assembled the following team to supplement the architectural work:

  • Bruce Dees and Associates, landscape architecture.
  • AHBL, Civil Engineering: Reporting on utilities and drainage.
  • GeoEngineers, geotechnical study: This group will offer findings from two borings – one 15 feet depth and the other to 30 feet. The deeper boring will include a monitoring well to evaluate ground water fluctuations.
  • Counsilman Hunsaker, aquatic design consultant: Analysis and recommendations for existing pool design, liner and equipment, plus recommendations on additional aquatic features.
  • PCS Structural Solutions, structural engineering: Review of the existing building, including seismic capability, and recommendations for the renovation and addition options.
  • Interface, mechanical engineering: Review of mechanical and plumbing systems.
  • Travis Fitzmaurice, electrical engineering: Review of the building’s electrical systems.
  • DCW Cost Management: architectural and structural cost estimates for the renovation and addition options.

ARC was selected through a competitive bidding process by a committee consisting of a few councilmembers (I wasn’t on it) and city staff. The combined experience of this architecture and engineering team includes work on Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool in Seattle, Rosehill Community Center in Mukilteo, and STAR Center in Tacoma, among others. Also, Metro Parks (my employer) has hired ARC and Bruce Dees for the first phase of the proposed Eastside Community Center in Tacoma. In my limited experience with both companies (I’ve only worked at Metro Parks four months), both companies have been thorough and excellent.

This feasibility study will cost $104,000, which will come from one of our reserve funds. We’ve been holding the money for this project. The vote to approve the contract was 6-1, with Councilmember Jolibois the only vote against it.

You will play an important role in this project. The scope of work includes forming a steering committee and holding at least two public meetings. We want Fircrest residents to see the renovation, expansion and replacement options that are presented and tell us how you feel about them. We just hired the team this week, so I’ll share details about the public engagement as soon as they are set.

Updates on liquor regs, the 2016 budget, and the Rec Center feasibility study

It’s been a busy fall for the Fircrest City Council, so here are updates on several items of popular interest:

LIQUOR: Voters will decide on Nov. 3 whether to lift the prohibition on serving liquor-by-the-glass in the central business districts. The Planning Commission, a volunteer panel of citizens, has developed draft zoning regulations for the City Council’s consideration if/when voters approve the measure. The City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.

BUDGET: After five public meetings in October, we are still on track to adopt the 2016 budget on Nov. 10. As I’ve previously reported, the $22 million budget is in excellent shape, with all bills covered, healthy reserves, plenty of available cash flow, and enough left over to manage some capital needs. There’s a list of final decisions to be made at that meeting. I have put two items on that list for consideration by the full Council:

  • Police: I’ve been working with city staff and the mayor to identify whether we have enough sustainable funding to restore a position in the Police Department that was cut as the Great Recession hit (several years before I joined the Council). We currently have nine officers providing 24/7 protection. Chief John Cheesman has shown me how much more coverage he can provide if that position is restored, and we both believe that will cut down on vehicle prowls and other property crimes. There appears to be enough funding available in the 2016 budget, but we don’t want to add it unless we’re sure we can carry it forward for years to come. That’s why I worked with the chief last week on a Plan B: If we’re not confident there’s enough funding to restore a permanent position yet, I will propose using that available 2016 funding for emphasis patrols (paying our current staff overtime to provide more coverage). We actually use very little overtime, so we believe the officers will appreciate the opportunity to earn extra income.
  • Fircrest Fun Days: A citizen committee has been meeting to figure out ways to give a boost to Fun Days, the annual weekend festival in August that has seen declining interest by vendors. The city only spent $7,500 on this year’s festival. I’m proposing a boost – up to an additional $2,500, depending on other decisions made in the budget – so the city can consider adding more activities and show vendors and sponsors that we’re committed to maintaining a quality event.
  • Other items to be determined include the purchase of a new street sweeper (our current sweeper is getting harder and harder to repair because it’s no longer made and we can’t locate parts), and purchasing two new police cars, among other things.

POOL/REC CENTER: Last year, we adopted a Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) plan, which contained a wish list of every improvement that a committee of citizens could think of for our parks over the next 20 years. It doesn’t mean we’ll do all of those things, but we aren’t eligible for grants unless we have such a plan, which you can find here. The plan also recommended hiring an expert to evaluate the condition of the pool and the Roy H. Murphy Recreation Center, and to offer options for improvements. The city is in the final stages of negotiating a contract with a highly regarded consultant, and the process will include public hearings to find out what you think. That’ll happen in the coming months, so stay tuned for more information soon.

Thoughts after doorbelling in the rain with my son

I spent the weekend walking around parts of Fircrest, and I feel invigorated and inspired by the conversations I had with voters. People are proud to live here. They love the peace, the pace, and the sense of place you feel when you’ve arrived here.

I walked more than 18,000 steps this weekend, according to the pedestrian tracker app on my phone. The first 8,000 came on Saturday, which was a beautiful day for knocking on doors and talking with neighbors. I started in the southwest corner of the city. Many folks on Weathervane Drive and Woodside Drive said they appreciate my goal of seeking grant funding to add a sidewalk on 44th Street, which is narrow and hilly and dangerous for pedestrians.

After taking a break to watch my son’s U-8 soccer game at Fircrest Park, I stayed in the area and talked to homeowners along Contra Costa adjacent to the park. Among other things, they are interested in the future of the Rec Center and pool. Then I headed over to San Juan and Forrest Park Drive, where I talked to people about my interest in adding an officer to our 9-member police department so we can increase neighborhood patrols. (They were surprised that my opponent opposes this idea).

Wet shoesSunday brought more challenging conditions. It rained. A lot. My feet were soaked by mid-afternoon. (I may have earned a few sympathy votes.) I started out walking along Golden Gate, W Summit, and Harvard. As I headed home for lunch with my family, I saw my opponent visiting homeowners along El Dorado, so I decided to give her (and them) some space and I started my post-lunch tour on Buena Vista, W Mount, and Mar Vista. Then I went back to the north side of town and visited El Dorado, Del Monte, Farallone, and Princeton, before finishing up on Crestwood in the central part of town.

The best part was my 6 ¾-year-old son, Ryan, joined me for the afternoon because Kathleen had to work. He was fascinated by the idea of knocking on doors and asking for support. Ryan and I had fun conversations with voters and with each other as we walked in the rain. His Batman boots were a more sensible choice than my sneakers.

 As of Friday, 10 percent of Fircrest voters have submitted their ballots to the county elections office. Lots of people told me they’ve already voted for meEdit. And this was interesting: I asked nearly everyone if there’s anything concerning them; if there’s anything the city needs to address. Nearly every voter told me the city is doing great and they couldn’t think of anything. Only when I outlined my efforts to increase police staffing so that we can have more patrols in neighborhoods did many voters then say, “yes, that would be great.”

My opponent is trying to make it sound like there are huge problems in our city. That’s from the classic political playbook that says you have to be negative in order to persuade people to vote an incumbent out of office. The reality is people are happy here. We take care of our streets and our parks. We have great programs and events that bring neighbors together. One contractor who owns a home on San Juan even told me our permitting department is the most customer friendly of any he deals with in the region.

A final point: Not surprisingly, a lot of people asked for my position on Fircrest Proposition 1, the liquor-by-the-drink question. I was proud to describe my role in initiating the effort on the City Council, and then going with Councilmember Medley to Olympia to change state law so that we can have this vote without harming businesses in annexed areas that already have liquor licenses. We are also working on the regulations that will clear the way for restaurants to expand their offerings or decide to locate here, while still preserving the charm and integrity of the neighborhood.

Where we’ve been, and where we’re going

League of Women Voters asks about economic development, open government, building consensus, and more

The League of Women Voters has an extraordinary history — forming in 1920 as advocates were making the final push to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, finally giving women the right to vote. The nonpartisan League has been providing valuable information to voters ever since.

My opponent Heather and I both filled out the League’s candidate questionnaire. It’s a generic one designed for all cities, but it still shows some big differences between us.

League of Women Voters logo

League of Women Voters

Once again, Heather offers happy thoughts but no actual plans. She also takes a couple of strange, ill-informed shots at me. The League’s candidate guide is available at You have to drill in by street address, which is handy because you can see our answers side-by-side. I plugged in the address for City Hall and provide the link here. Or, here’s a link to Heather’s answers, and mine are pasted below.

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