Audit shows Lewiston port had difficult times in fiscal year 2013


By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune

The Port of Lewiston lost $92,435 on its day-to-day operations in fiscal year 2013.

That’s a significant decline from 2012, when the port made $280,509, according to an audit port commissioners reviewed Wednesday.

The figures include revenue from rent of port-owned properties and its container operations, which have historically funded routine port functions, but exclude money the port received from property taxes and land sales.

The audit, done by Presnell Gage accountants in Lewiston, underlines the important role of megaloads in the port’s finances. The oversized loads made $537,075 for the port in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012, and nothing in the most recent fiscal year.

Another chief difference from year to year was depreciation and amortization, which was $355,708 in fiscal year 2013, about $41,000 more than fiscal year 2012.

Overall, the port still finished fiscal year 2013 strong. That was largely because of $465,135 in property-tax revenue and the sale of 7 acres of port land for about $730,000 to build a new FedEx Ground package distribution center.

The coming months could prove even more challenging. Shipping company Hanjin has announced it will stop calling on the Port of Portland in January, something that might cost the Port of Lewiston 15 percent of its container business. Hanjin handles about 80 percent of the containers that move through the Port of Portland, where most of the Port of Lewiston’s cargo goes before heading overseas.

Hanjin’s announcement comes as the Port of Lewiston finishes a $2.9 million expansion of its container dock, more than doubling its length. Container volume had already dropped from a high of more than 15,000 containers in 1995 through 2000, to 4,676 last year.

How the port will address those challenges hasn’t yet been decided.

Port Manager David Doeringsfeld asked the commissioners to start thinking about adding a third office employee for the next fiscal year, which starts in July. The hire would free some of his time so he could travel and pursue new port customers.

Port Commissioner Mike Thomason suggested the port look at a variety of options. Among them might be contracting a firm to market the port and making any pay dependent upon how successful the firm is in generating new port business.

In other business:

  • Port commissioners reviewed an audit finding Wednesday. Presnell Gage told the port it would be better for port accounting duties to be spread among more employees, but agreed with the port’s response that the cost of hiring additional staff outweighs the benefits. In the absence of more staff, the port commission provides oversight. Two commissioners sign each check and all three port commissioners routinely review a list of all port expenditures.
  • Commissioners passed a new strategic plan that lists boosting container traffic, expanding its business incubator and growing a fiber-optic network as goals.
  • The commission discussed anticipated vacancies at its business incubator. Clearwater Canyon Cellars, a winery, is poised to double its space by taking over 1,500 square feet that will open when Taneum Industries moves to Boise. Taneum makes custom die-cut decals for motocross and snowmobile enthusiasts. Another tenant, Seekins Precision, which occupies 7,500 square feet, is expected to leave when its new building near the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport is completed. The port hasn’t started advertising that space since Seekins, which makes components for AR-15s, hasn’t yet given notice.

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.