Port of Lewiston holds budget meetings at several locations

Commissioners will travel to Peck, Culdesac and Lapwai

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
May 11, 2011
Before the Port of Lewiston passes its budget for the coming fiscal year, its commissioners are reaching out to its constituents.

Meetings have been set for 6 p.m. Monday in Peck at the community building, 4:30 p.m. May 23 at city hall in Culdesac and 7 p.m. May 23 at city hall in Lapwai.

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 presented to commissioners Tuesday contains a $450,000 tax levy. Someone with $100,000 of taxable residential property after a homeowners exemption would pay about $16 per year.

A public hearing and final vote on the budget is set for a meeting at 1:30 p.m. June 14 at the port office at 1626 Sixth Ave. North in Lewiston.

Everything about the preliminary budget that would start on July 1, including the levy amount, can change based on the feedback the commission receives, said David Doeringsfeld, Port of Lewiston manager.

The $2.62 million budget has $849,913 set aside for land acquisition and development projects, the category where the port uses taxpayers’ dollars.

The largest item is $329,813 for “other,” which Doeringsfeld said Tuesday could be used as a savings account for the port’s dock extension. The port has received $340,000 in a state block grant for the $2.5 million in estimated construction costs and an additional $160,000 for design.

Asked why the port isn’t seeking money from oil companies using the port’s dock for megaloads, Doeringsfeld said the port was seeking a longer dock to accommodate two barges instead of one before megaloads surfaced as a revenue stream for the port.

Paper products and agricultural commodities are the primary items loaded onto barges at the container yard and transported to Portland before going overseas.

After November, “we don’t know if we’ll ever see another oversized load through the port,” Doeringsfeld said.

The port estimates the revenue it will receive from use by oil companies for oversized loads will be about $337,000, including money the port receives and then pays to a security company.

The port declined to disclose how much of the revenue it gets is going for security.

Many of the financial benefits of being a place where oil companies transfer Asian-made large loads from barges to trailers for road journeys aren’t going to the port, said Jerry Klemm, the commission’s president.

The crews working on the components swelled to more than 300 skilled individuals, mostly from out of town. “They’ve got to stay here all week,” Klemm said. “The dollars they’re spending are tremendous.”

The budget also has a 1 percent pay increase for the port’s six employees as well as merit pay bumps for some. The annual salary of Doeringsfeld, the highest paid employee, would go from $91,096 to $91,896.

In other business, commissioners heard an update about its container yard operations. Volume increased by 39 percent in April compared with the previous year, Doeringfeld said.

April was the first full month river transportation was open between Lewiston and Portland following a closure for repair of three locks that started in December. The closure was believed to be the longest on record.

The rehabilitation isn’t the only change on the river system. The channel between Portland and the Pacific Ocean has been deepened, enabling larger ships to call on the Port of Portland.

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