Port of Clarkston adopts rules for taxicabs

Eight boats call on Clarkston in a circuit that has stops along the Snake and Columbia rivers and brings more than $3 million a year to the region. The Port of Clarkston is looking for ways to improve the experience of cruise boat passengers.

Lewiston has provided one answer for the Port of Clarkston as it seeks to upgrade the experience of cruise boat passengers.

The port adopted the city of Lewiston's rules for taxicab drivers during its Friday meeting. Commissioners said they want to encourage taxi services with safe drivers who use vehicles in good repair and refrain from smoking in their vehicles.

Regular background checks, standards for the condition of vehicles and insurance verification are among Lewiston's criteria, which are more stringent than the city of Clarkston's, Port Manager Wanda Keefer said. The leeway to deviate from the city of Clarkston is available because the port owns the roads leading to its docks, she said.

To encourage use of the port-approved taxis, the port will provide cruise boat operators names and telephone numbers of the businesses that comply.

Port employees may give taxi drivers who meet Lewiston's standards a sticker to display to help the public readily identify port-approved transportation providers. The stickers might be removed if cab drivers are found speeding or causing other problems, Keefer said.

The port will explore additional remedies for rule-breaking taxi drivers with its attorney.

"There's a public safety issue," she said.

Quality of taxi service is one of the issues the port commission discussed as it wrestles with how much to help the cruise boat industry. Passengers and crew members usually don't have cars, making it difficult for them to access the airport, stores or services not offered on the boats.

A total of eight boats call on Clarkston in a circuit that has stops along the Snake and Columbia rivers in places such as Portland, Astoria and the Tri-Cities.

The sector brings more than $3 million a year to the region. That economic gain, however, is heavily subsidized by the Port of Clarkston, though many of the businesses that benefit are in Idaho, Keefer said.

The boats pay about $20,000 in moorage fees a year to the port. That's significantly less than the $275,000 in expenses the port has in years the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges to keep the water deep enough to prevent boats from getting stuck.

Port commissioners said Friday they want Keefer to study the possibility of a tax on each passenger to defray the cost of dredging.

"This could help equalize things," Keefer said.

The affluent passengers, who spend thousands of dollars on cruises, are unlikely to notice a $10 per person fee, Keefer said.

"This should not be a deterrent to them."

The idea is in the early stages, and Keefer suggested port officials vet it with cruise boat companies and hold public meetings before making a final decision.

Other smaller projects to beautify the port's shoreline are in the works. A mural of Kelly Creek along the North Fork of the Clearwater River is being painted on a crane where the vessels dock. The port is refurbishing two antique benches to place near one of its docks. One was donated and the other was found for $50 at a secondhand store.

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Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

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