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PSE, City of Renton at odds over $34,000

The work to widen Garden Avenue North and realign the intersection with Logan are complete, but the City of Renton is still wrangling with Puget Sound Energy over $34,000 the city says PSE owes for part of the project the city believes should have been the responsibility of the energy purveyor.

The money is part of a $200,000 increase in the project budget that was recently approved by the City Council.

According to Public Works Administrator Gregg Zimmerman, a series of delays  on the Garden Avenue project, including changes to the design to allow new sidewalks to connect with the planned Highlands to Landing trail, changes in American with Disabilites Act standards during the project and unexpected soil conditions where light poles were to be placed also contributed to the overrun.

But among the costs is the money the city is seeking from PSE regarding overhead power lines that the city had to raise as part of the project.

According to Zimmerman, the 15-year franchise agreement the city signed with PSE in 2000 includes the recognition that the city owns the rights-of-way in which PSE power lines are placed. In addition, the agreement says that PSE is required to make and pay for the revisions to lines in the right-of-way “in a timely manner and without cost to the city” as not to cause delays to their projects.

Zimmerman said the project required the movement of two power poles and the raising of power lines to accommodate lights in a different section of the project.

As required, the city notified the energy purveyor in 2010 and the company responded in writing to say they would complete the work.

But when crews were sent out, only the power poles were moved. The wires were not raised.

In 2012, Zimmerman said the city once again brought the topic to PSE’s attention, even having a meeting on-site and explaining that it was nearing a point where the lines were going to affect the rest of the project and its deadlines and budget.

According to Zimmerman, PSE told the city it had to redesign the work.

But the project manager on the job said they were out of time and had to move the works themselves.

Once that was completed, Zimmerman said PSE assumed they were off the hook for the work, but that was not the case.

“The budget had already been negatively impacted,” he said, adding that the city had to take matters into its own hands for the sake of completing the larger project.

The city sent the $34,000 claim to PSE in December. The company responded in a letter dated Dec. 11, 2103, rejecting the claim and stating PSE is not responsible for the costs.

Zimmerman said the city disagrees and is pursuing an “informal appeal” with PSE adding that the city believes “they missed something” when reviewing the franchise agreement.

“We’re saying ‘We think you guys owe us for this one,’” he said.

Zimmerman said the dispute was “not a huge deal” and cited a “generally good relationship with PSE.”

Ray Lane, a spokesman for PSE, also cited a strong relationship with the city and said in an email that “Things are still in movement” regarding the  repayment.

“PSE has a very good working relationship with the City of Renton,” Lane said. “Every now and then, disagreements happen, and this is one we are actively working to resolve.

“We’re taking a close look at the situation and what actions can be taken,” he said.

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