Budget includes $2.9 million for container dock project
The biggest item in a budget Lewiston port commissioners passed Wednesday is a $2.9 million container dock expansion.
The action came just minutes after David Doeringsfeld, the port’s manager, described the port’s primary mission as job creation and retention, not getting barges up and down the river.
More than doubling the length of the 125-foot dock is consistent with that goal, Doeringfeld said after the meeting.
The port would like to start work in July 2013 and finish a few months later. The port is getting the money for the dock expansion from a variety of sources such as savings, a $350,000 Idaho Rural Community Block Grant, and possibly an $800,000 loan from the Idaho Department of Agriculture that the port is seeking.
By 2023, the project will create 48 jobs, assuming the port handles 16,000 containers annually, and 22 more by 2033 if that number climbs to 22,000 containers, Doeringsfeld said.
In the past, container volume reached 18,000 in a year at the present dock, Doeringsfeld said. “It’s very inefficient and unproductive and can create unsafe working conditions.”
What will happen to container traffic is one of the big unknowns facing the port. Last year, 3,653 containers of paper and agricultural products originated at the Port of Lewiston.
That was the lowest number of the past 20 years including 1992, the year of the Snake River drawdown when 10,672 containers went through the Port of Lewiston.
That trend might be changing. This year the port had 1,476 containers by the end of May, 153 more than the same time last year.
Aside from the dock upgrade, labor is the second-largest expense in the $4.68 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The port will spend almost half a million for seven employees. The figure contains benefits and a two-percent raise for the staff. The annual salary of Doeringsfeld, the highest paid employee, will rise from $91,896 to $93,734.
Taxpayers will contribute $450,000 to the budget, the same amount the port has levied for about ten years. The money is used for land acquisition and infrastructure improvements, not day-to-day expenses.
In a related matter, port commissioners voted to increase container handling fees from $85 to $90 per unit. The hike was the first in six years, Doeringsfeld said. “It’s been vetted by our customers. I haven’t heard any strong concerns expressed.”
The commissioners also raised the fees that would apply to barges bringing extra-big shipments to the port. A 250-foot barge carrying 100 tons of cargo will now pay $1,800 to dock for four hours, compared with $1,150 before the change.
The port isn’t expecting any business from super-sized loads this year.
(By Elaine Williams, The Lewiston Tribune)