By BRIAN BULLOCK, Pilot Staff Writer

The Port of Brookings Harbor Budget Committee Tuesday gave a unanimous thumbs up to a nearly $5.6 million dollar budget for the 2002-2003 fiscal year.

The budget's largest increases were in total expenditures, up just over $500,000 from the previous year. Much of those increases reflect expenditures for three construction projects that will begin this summer.

One of those projects, a new marine fueling facility, will account for $245,000 of that increase in purchase of fuel for resale.

andquot;Everywhere you see a big increase, it has something to do with fuel oil doesn't it?andquot; asked committee member Ken Byrtus.

One significant expenditure the port is planning for the next fiscal year is $800,000 in the capital project fund. It reflects the cost of the Eureka Fisheries property purchase and renovation.

The port is currently working on acquiring the property. It must go through a long process of developing business plans, contracting for a Class I environmental assessment, getting three independent appraisals, and more before it can make an offer.

A private offer has been made on the property dependent upon the port's environmental assessment. The port, according to Crabtree, intends on acquiring and developing the property.

andquot;It's in the budget. It's a project on the books. We'll leave no stone unturned that will allow us to renovate that property for the benefit of our commercial fleet,andquot; Crabtree said.

Despite the $800,000 budget allocation for the project, the port's capital project fund expenditures total is $105,000 less than it was last year.

The budget proposal also reflected increasing personnel by four full time positions, which runs in contrast to current economic and employment trends. Three of those positions, dock manager and two operational positions, are necessary because of the new fueling dock and fish product receiving facility.

The final position raised a bit of controversy with the committee. It was port management's desire to hire a deputy general manager.

Several committee members expressed concern with the $50,000 budget request. Crabtree said he made the request for two reasons.

andquot;What I see it as is a timing and replacement need,andquot; the port manager explained. andquot;There's no other port that does the type and complexity of work we do.andquot;

Crabtree said it would be a good idea to have a budget item that gives the port commission the ability to hire somebody to fill that position if they find a qualified candidate.

andquot;When you hire a deputy general manager, the commission has to be comfortable with them,andquot; Crabtree said. andquot;If somebody walks through the door that fits the bill, we have the option to hire them. I agree the commission should hire its management people.andquot;

Committee members Lloyd Whaley and Norma Fitzgerald both expressed concern over the potential $50,000 salary.

andquot;What about starting somebody out as an intern?andquot; Fitzgerald said. andquot;You have to be the kind of person who knows a little bit about everything.andquot;

Whaley said he wasn't in favor of the idea.

Ed Gray, a committee member and port commissioner, said it would be a good idea to hire the position because of the workload Crabtree has assumed. He said it would be a good idea to hire a potential successor.

andquot;There are only about four port managers who have the kind of experience Russ has,andquot; Gray said.

andquot;I think you have to have some kind assurance that you can get somebody here and train them and keep them here,andquot; Ken Byrtus added.

The committee decided to approve the budget allocation with the idea that it wasn't a mandatory $50,000 expenditure.

Port personnel were given a 2 percent raise. The port manager and financial director's position reflected higher increases, but those were not entirely monetary raises, according to Merle Mehlhoff.

She said both the port manager and financial director positions were not covered by medical insurance and the increases reflect those added benefits.

andquot;Our auditor told us we should include that. There really isn't this monstrous raise. It's just us playing catch-up,andquot; she said of administration instituting that policy change.

One port employee, office manager Betty Sumner, was the beneficiary of a more significant pay raise. Whaley moved for a 10 percent increase for Sumner. He said she has been at the port in the neighborhood of 25 years and even served as port manager for a time.

andquot;She's earned it. She's the only one working while we're all in here,andquot; he said.

In all, the port's proposed expenditures are $1.9 million and the total operating budget is $5,593,092. That's up approximately $470,000 from last year. Crabtree said its evidence of the forward movement of the port.

andquot;It shows the port is continuing its consistent development,andquot; he explained. andquot;I've always been taught if you don't have the money you can't spend it.

andquot;This budget reflects that philosophy.andquot;