Port of Lewiston moving ahead with plans for fiber-optic network, Lewiston Tribune, May 7, 2015

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A new fiber-optic network might be up and running in Lewiston by the end of the year.

Lewiston port commissioners voted to move forward with the $950,000 project Wednesday at a meeting where they also developed the budget for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1.

Access on the network will be sold wholesale at a set rate to telecommunications companies. It will be capable of transmitting everything from Internet traffic to cellphone calls.

The line will connect with another section that is being constructed in North Lewiston. It will be installed from the Memorial Bridge along 17th and Fifth streets to the industrial area near the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport. It will have branches that reach places such as East Lewiston and Clearwater Paper.

The expenditure is the largest in a proposed $2.15 million budget for the port’s 2016 fiscal year. That figure includes $150,000 commissioners decided Wednesday to earmark from reserves to help with the rebuild of 18th Street North. That project is being taken on by the Lewiston Urban Renewal Agency.

Officials said they don’t want the port’s share to exceed 15 percent of the project cost, or $150,000, whichever is lower. A $1 million estimate for the work might be high, said Port Manager David Doeringsfeld.

The commissioners agree the upgrade needs to happen, but have wondered what their portion should be, since 18th Street North belongs to the city. Port Commissioner Mary Hasenoehrl said she checked informally with members of the urban renewal agency board and found they believe the city should pay more than the port or urban renewal. City staff members plan to request $350,000 for the project during budget talks, Doeringsfeld said.

The road connects State Highway 128 with the Lewis-Clark Terminal, where bulk grain barges are filled. The road is slated to be rebuilt with sidewalks for non-motorized traffic as visibility is upgraded at its intersection with Highway 128.

Behind capital projects, compensation of port staff is the largest spending category in the budget, anticipated to be $346,057 for the 2016 fiscal year, including the wages and benefits of five employees.

Doeringsfeld, the highest-paid port employee, will see no change in his annual wage of $98,481 in the coming year. Commission Chairman Mike Thomason said the figure is reflective of budgetary constraints, not performance, which is evaluated quarterly.

On the revenue side of the budget, property taxes will be the second-largest source of income at $420,000, behind rentals of $488,472. This is the first time in about 10 years that port commissioners have reduced the amount of revenue they are seeking from Nez Perce County property owners.

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