Pierce County Council Visits Key Peninsula


Matthew Dean

The Pierce County Council held its weekly meeting in the gym of the Key Peninsula Civic Center Nov. 1, allowing Key Peninsula residents to present their concerns and comments directly to council members.

While the council is limited in its powers by state and federal law, it still possesses the ability to levy taxes, approve countywide ordinances and pass land use regulations. The council is also responsible for nonstate infrastructure; roads like State Route 302 are controlled and maintained by the Washington State Department of Transportation, but other public roads are the responsibility of the council. This also means that where the state does not intervene, the domain of the county similarly includes things like water management, business licenses, sewers and some elements of criminal justice.

The council is composed of seven members, each representing about one-seventh of the county’s population. The residents of their district elect members to four-year terms, with the most recent election held in 2014. Key Peninsula’s current council representative is Derek Young (D), who also represents Gig Harbor, Ruston and the surrounding areas of Council District 7.

Because the Key Peninsula has no municipalities or municipal government, any regulations or repairs on the Key Peninsula are controlled by the county council, as are the budgets and allocation for local institutions and projects. Examples include behavioral health facilities, animal control and benefit programs for the homeless/disadvantaged.

Councilman Young visited the civic center in mid-October to discuss local issues with residents and with the Key Peninsula Community Council. Many of the talking points from October came up again at the council meeting, where Community Council President Chuck West appealed to the council for more budget consideration. West cited county tax documents showing the outflow of money from the Key Peninsula and the relatively small amount of money returning in categories like flood control and public library facilities. West also emphasized the need for additional road maintenance on the KP. The council members did not comment on these issues.

An additional presentation was given by Sara Thompson of The Mustard Seed Project, who detailed the group’s plans to construct senior housing facilities on the Key Peninsula in the coming years.

Another major topic of the night was the state of mental health and drug abuse treatment on the Key Peninsula. West commented on the issue, drawing from his experience as a Key Peninsula Fire Department battalion chief. “Unfortunately, we go and pick these people up and there’s not much we can do for them; we leave them in a hallway in an emergency room ... and then later we see that person again,” he said. “There is definitely a need for mental health and substance abuse facilities.”

Several community members agreed during the open forum portion of the meeting. “I’m a runner; I run up and down Wright-Bliss, and Mr. West has seen my collection of syringes that I pick up off the road on a monthly basis,” said Jeremiah Saucier, director of the Crossroads Treatment Center and a member of the community council. The county council members also declined to substantially comment on this issue.

Other KP residents took the opportunity to comment on their issues of choice. Several commented on county transportation and alternative public transport options, and Maureen Reilly of The Mustard Seed Project invited the council to attend a local transportation summit Nov. 17.  Some residents addressed specific area concerns like a lack of streetlights on certain roads. Representatives from the Key Peninsula Youth Council requested better computer resources for local schools and asked for extended and more reliable coverage from CenturyLink.

After the forum was complete, the meeting was adjourned. A full video archive of the meeting can be found on the Pierce County TV website HERE.