The Morning Press: Transportation concerns, rec fees, farewell to trees

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This weekend's top stories and news you may have missed:

Transportation draft raises concerns

photoState Sens. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Ann Rivers, R-La Center, meet with The Columbian's Editorial Board Monday to talk about changing the state's transportation regulations, and the possibility of the Legislature passing a transportation package next session that could include increasing the gas tax by 10.5 cents a gallon.

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A new draft of a transportation revenue package is circulating among state lawmakers, but its shortage of money for Clark County projects is raising concerns in Southwest Washington.

The latest iteration of the plan, drafted by Sen. Curtis King, raises the gas tax 11.5 cents a gallon over 12 years and sets aside $7 billion for transportation projects across the state. But about $100 million from that pot would head to Southwest Washington. Just $41.4 million would be spent in Clark County, which is one half of 1 percent of the package's project dollars.

State Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, said the plan skimps on money for his corner of the state.

"I'm hoping this is not their best and final offer, and that we'll still negotiate," Moeller said Thursday. "At the moment, I'm not voting for this, and I doubt there will be anybody from the 49th (District in Vancouver) voting for it."

Read the full story here.

Dan Ogden: Paving the way for JFK

photoThanks to a fellowship, Dan Ogden -- then a political science professor at Washington State -- was able to spend a year with the Democratic Party in 1960 and work on John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.

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Dan Ogden was an advance man during John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign, and he was invited along when the president scheduled a series of appearances in Texas in November 1963.

Ogden, who was an Interior Department official, had a job commitment and didn’t make the trip. Ogden and a few other people were in a Maryland restaurant when they heard what happened in Dallas on Nov. 22.

“We were just devastated,” Ogden said.

Now, as the nation approaches the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, Ogden isn’t just recalling the stunning conclusion of an era that came to be known as “Camelot.” He can remember how it started.

As an advance man in Kennedy’s campaign, Ogden made sure the campaign stop had enough cars and drivers for the motorcade, a speaking platform at the rally site and a place for Kennedy to eat.

Read the full story here.

Vancouver rec center fees being tweaked

photoTeresa Huddleston of Vancouver lifts weights at the Marshall Center on Monday. Huddleston has been going to the Marshall Center for four years and works out four times a week. As a city resident, she'll soon pay a few dollars less each month while noncity residents will pay a few dollars more. The change to the fee schedule, which starts in January, is done in recognition that city residents already pay property taxes to help fund the city's recreation centers.

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Starting Jan. 1, people who don't live in the city will pay a few more dollars a month to break a sweat at Vancouver recreation centers or rent one for a party, while city residents either won't see an increase or will save a few bucks.

Letters have been sent to people who have passes to Firstenburg Community Center, Marshall Community Center and the Vancouver Tennis Center, notifying them of the fee changes, said David Perlick, the city's recreation services manager.

As an example, adults currently pay $37 a month to work out at Marshall. In January, a noncity resident will pay $40 a month, while a city resident will pay $35.

Starting May 1, 15 percent higher fees will be charged to noncity residents for swim lessons and other programs, although families with more than one child might consider paying a flat annual fee of $70 to essentially buy resident status, Perlick said.

Perlick said the higher fees are meant to make up for the fact that noncity residents aren't paying property taxes to the city.

Read the full story here.

Saws come for Esther Short Park's sweetgums

photoA late-September storm severely damaged three sweetgum trees in Esther Short Park. The trees will be cut down late next week.

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The debris is long gone from the violent rain and windstorm that smacked into Clark County in late September, but for the area's sweetgum trees, the ordeal is far from over.

The storm, which caused more than 2.5 inches of rain on Sept. 28 and 29, knocked huge branches off sweetgum trees across the county, including three in Esther Short Park.

Many types of trees can survive that sort of battering, but the park's historic sweetgums haven't properly recovered — so they're getting the axe late next week and will be replaced sometime in February.

Read the full story here.

Physical therapists try simulated knee surgery, robotically aided

photoPhysical therapists watch Dr. Todd Borus perform a partial knee replacement on a cadaver leg Saturday at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. Borus completed the surgery using a robotic arm through a procedure known as MAKOplasty.

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As a group of physical therapists took turns at the operating table, their faces showed a combination of wonder, fascination, and a bit of squeamishness.

Each tried his or her hand during a demonstration knee surgery, performed on a cadaver leg. But it wasn't just human hands at work for this partial knee replacement. They worked with the guidance of a robotic arm that already knew where to go.

Dr. Todd Borus, the surgeon leading the demonstration at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center on Saturday, explained it this way:

"It won't let me color outside the lines," he said.

Legacy Salmon Creek was the first hospital in the region to offer the robotic-assisted procedure, known as MAKOplasty, in 2009. It's still one of just three facilities in the Portland-Vancouver area using the technology. Borus himself has performed more than 500 such procedures.

Read the full story here.