Port of Lewiston commissioners put together ‘austere’ budget for 2009-10

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Nez Perce County Commissioner Michael Grow complimented Port of Lewiston staff members Tuesday for forgoing pay increases in the coming year as the port’s commissioners passed the 2009/2010 budget.

“You’ve got a good group of employees,” Grow said.

The port has cut all but one half-time and six full-time employees as the volume of container shipping has fallen because of the economy.

The Port of Portland, where cargo from the Port of Lewiston is transferred onto ocean-going vessels, has lost calls from a carrier that no longer had enough business on a route that served Europe, among other destinations.

Clearwater Paper, one of the Port of Lewiston’s biggest customers, has been trucking some of its goods to Puget Sound ports as the options at the Port of Portland diminished.

At the same time, shipments of agricultural products have fallen in part because exporters are having a tougher time getting credit.

“It’s the most austere budget I’ve put together in the 15 years I’ve been here,” said David Doeringsfeld, Lewiston’s port manager. His annual salary is $89,310 in the budget the commissioners passed.

The port expects to spend $1.81 million in 2009-10, about $400,000 less than last year. The majority of savings will be in the container yard, where the port has two fewer employees than last year and reduced expenditures for repairs, maintenance and contributions to a fund that pays for major equipment replacements.

The port expects to get $450,000 in revenue from property owners in Nez Perce County, the same amount it’s received for six consecutive years. That will cost $18.75 per year for someone with $100,000 in taxable value in residential property after a homeowners’ exemption.

Property tax revenue at the port pays for development of infrastructure that encourages job creation. The largest item in that category is $150,000 in 2009-10, for a container dock expansion that won’t get constructed unless the port lands government grants to cover the remainder of the $2.7 million project.

The second-biggest expenditure in that category is $90,000 to build a sidewalk at the edge of the port’s Business and Technology Park along Thain Grade.

Constructing the sidewalk is something the port has to do to meet city rules. The port put the project in its budget for a number of years, but had not done it.

At one point the price was estimated at $140,000, but the port recently awarded the bid to McCall’s Classic construction for $87,611. “The bidding climate is good,” Doeringsfeld said.

The 824 feet of 71/2-foot-wide sidewalk will have a turnout bay for police vehicles. It will connect existing portions of sidewalk along the edge of Wal-Mart and Nez Perce Plaza, the shopping center where Walgreens, Safeway and Home Depot are located. Construction is slated to start in about two weeks.

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