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CL port budget ship shape

Port of Cascade Locks officials believe their budget is in shape budget for fiscal year 2003-04.

That optimism is due, in part, to the May pay off of a $340,000 debt service and an expected increase of $60,000 in ticket sales from the sternwheeler “Columbia Gorge.” The agency is also expecting $130,000 of additional revenue this year from January’s toll increases at the Bridge of the Gods.

In addition, the port has streamlined operations by combining some managerial positions and not filling open vacancies. Chuck Daughtry, port director, said the workforce has been reduced from 89 full and part-time staffers in 2001 to 65 in the current year.

He said these factors have contributed to a $365,114 million budget that is almost the same as last year — in spite of significant spikes in insurance premiums.

“Everything looks favorable from the economic side and I think we’re really getting our act together,” said Daughtry, who came onboard two years ago.

He said because of the national alert over terrorist strikes, the port’s premiums for the tollbridge have risen from $74,000 to $125,000. He said higher fees are also being paid to update the value of the paddlewheel replica from $2.6 million to $3.75 million.

Although the vessel is still not generating the profit margin the port wants, Daughtry expects that scenario to change. He said the vessel is not losing the same amount of capital since it is no longer wintered in Portland. He said the work of Casey Roeder, the new marketing director, is also beginning to pay off. According to Daughtry, Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Wash., is now including rides on the sternwheeler in its room packages. He said the passenger count is also growing due to more special excursions and increased interest in charters from corporate clients.

Daughtry said the port’s unemployment expenses have spiked significantly, from $5,000 in the previous fiscal year to more than $46,000 in the current budget. There will also be some wage increases as staffers have the opportunity to earn up to 2.5 percent more from merit increases at the end of the calendar year. However, he said retirement costs have remained stable, a situation that have not occurred in many other public agencies.

He said the port has now positioned itself to capitalize on a turnaround in the economy— and from the potential siting of a gambling casino on about half of its 120 industrial park. If Gov. Ted Kulongoski denies that proposal from the Confederates Tribes of Warm Springs, Daughtry said the port will aggressively market the park to manufacturing firms.

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