Port of Lewiston levy will likely stay same

Public hearing, final vote on budget scheduled next month

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Nez Perce County residents will likely have the same property tax burden for the Port of Lewiston in the coming fiscal year as they have for the past seven years.

Port of Lewiston commissioners reviewed a preliminary budget Tuesday that includes a $450,000 tax levy. Someone with $100,000 of taxable value in residential property after a homeowner’s exemption would pay $17.65 per year.

A public hearing and a final vote on the budget is set for a meeting at 1:30 p.m. June 11 at the port office at 1626 Sixth Ave. North in Lewiston.

The port uses property tax revenue for infrastructure aimed at economic development, not day-to-day port operations. The biggest such project in the preliminary budget for the 2011 fiscal year is one that would replace aging fenders on the port’s barge dock. It’s estimated to cost $350,000 including $190,000 in federal money.

The work will involve driving steel pipes into the river bottom and placing wooden facing on them to prevent barges from pushing on the dock’s concrete.

The upgrade will help the port accommodate companies that want to unload oversize freight at the Port of Lewiston and ship it to Canada and other locations. So far the port has handled a few customers of that kind, but one, Imperial Oil/Exxon Mobile may be sending as many as 200 loads through the port starting in November, although no agreements have been reached.

A barge would be parked perpendicular to the dock as a tug boat pushes the barge from the opposite end to keep it snug with the dock. Then a tractor-trailer rig would pull onto the barge and off load the freight that would be on stands.

That differs from how the port normally handles cargo with barges parking parallel to the dock and being loaded with conveyor belts or with cranes that lift containers and set them in place.

The potential for the new large-cargo business appears in other parts of the preliminary budget. The $421,000 the port anticipates in revenue from its container yard includes some proceeds from oversized cargo, said David Doeringsfeld, the port manager.

But overall container yard revenue is expected to fall by about $90,000 in the coming year. Barging on the Snake River will be down for 14 weeks in December as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes major repairs on locks at three of the eight dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers between Lewiston and Portland.

The port will handle the decrease by all but eliminating overtime for container dock employees and reducing its equipment repair and maintenance budget. The port’s container crew will likely work through the lock closures either loading containers onto rail cars or providing security for large cargo that could arrive before the closure, Doeringsfeld said. “It’s still too early to make that call.”

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