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Cave family wants underground power

The Cave family is in talks with the city to underground the two power poles, and the angular wires in front of their property on Winslow Way. The family has owned the buildings since the 1930s. - Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo
The Cave family is in talks with the city to underground the two power poles, and the angular wires in front of their property on Winslow Way. The family has owned the buildings since the 1930s.
— image credit: Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo

The island’s Cave family is in the midst of discussions with the city to underground the power lines in front of its property on Winslow Way.

The family has owned three historic buildings on the north side of the street since the 1930s. Family members are currently in negotiations with the city to pay an estimated $60,000 to have the power lines placed underground, which would allow removal of two large poles in front of their buildings and the angular power lines running to the southeast corner of the ravine.

The city and Puget Sound Energy has discussed a cost-share agreement to cover the costs. The overall work would cost about $110,000, which would include new transformers, trenching, sidewalks, conduits and labor. An early proposal has the property owner covering 40 percent of those costs, or about $60,000. The city would use about $15,000 of labor costs already embedded in the project, while PSE would pay the remainder of the bill.

Winslow Way project planner Chris Wierzbicki said he believes the work can still be done within the original scope of the project since it involves a small segment of the street.

The original Winslow Way reconstruction plans were to underground power between Ericksen and Madison avenues at a cost of about $1 million, paid for by Winslow Way property owners who make up the Local Improvement District (LID).

When the city ran into budget complications last June, it became unlikely that the city could pay for the improvements to the sewer utility because of an inability to borrow funds. In order to get the sewer work finished, the council asked the LID to use its portion of the funding to help cover the sewer work in lieu of undergrounding the power.

“It is because of the property owners that we have a successful project today,” said Wierzbicki.

Losing the underground power was a blow to many who wanted to see at least an updated streetscape without large poles and power lines when other amenities were cut from the project.

A PSE spokesperson said they are working to come up with a proposal on specific costs to present to the city within the next two weeks. Wierzbicki said that once those figures are formulated he will work with the Cave family to determine how the project will be funded.

Marcia Cave, who is a spokesperson for the family, said she is waiting for a call back from Wierzbicki before she discusses the proposal publicly.

At one point, Wierzbicki said, the Island Gateway developers were considering trying to get the remainder of the power underground. In order to do so the city would have to go to the east side of State Route 305 and dig about a 12 inch underground tunnel under the state highway. The costs associated with that construction on top of the general cost in putting the power underground was more than the developers were interested in paying, he said.

The city will wait to hear a proposal from PSE to move forward with the Cave family.

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