The Morning Press: County audit; new year's baby, resolutions, walks

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We rang in a new year this week. Here is some of the week's top stories and news you may have missed:

County agrees: No more sales of old wares

photoThe Clark County Courthouse in downtown Vancouver.

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Clark County will no longer sell surplus computers — a result of an investigation into employees posting surplus computer equipment on Craigslist and buying it themselves or selling it to other county employees.

County Administrator Mark McCauley said Thursday no employees were disciplined over the practice, although using Craigslist violated the county's policy of auctioning old equipment on sites such as eBay.

Instead, the decision was made to bar employees from buying surplus equipment and to simply dispose of old computers rather than try to make a small profit.

The practice came to light during a routine county audit, the findings of which were released Tuesday by Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey.

One finding from the audit, which reviewed how county employees handle cash and track inventory, was "staff uses insider information to potentially benefit on assets sold."

Kimsey said Tuesday his office turned the matter over to the human resources department.

McCauley said Thursday that HR officials conducted a series of interviews with employees and concluded "the employees were doing nothing nefarious."

Read the full story here.

Vancouver family's fourth child is 2014's first in a Clark County hospital

photo A Vancouver family welcomes the first baby born in a Clark County hospital in 2014. Here are Vasiliy Stanislavov and wife Liliya, and children Mark, 7, Andre, 2, Victoria, 4, and baby Ella, who arrived at 1:07 a.m. Wednesday.

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She was due in 2013, but baby Ella had other plans. She became the first child born at a Clark County hospital in 2014, arriving at 1:07 a.m. Wednesday.

Ella is the fourth child for Vasiliy Stanislavov and wife Liliya. The Vancouver family arrived at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center just before 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Of the three other children — Mark, 7, Victoria, 4, and Andre, 2 — the most excited may have been Victoria, Vasiliy said.

"She was waiting for her sister," he said. "Two days in a row she was asking, 'When are we going to have the baby?'"

Ella's due date was Dec. 29. When she arrived, she weighed 7 pounds 9 ounces and measured 19 1/2 inches long.

"We think kids (are) like a gift from God," Vasiliy said.

Ella wasn't the first New Year's Day baby in the entire Portland-Vancouver area. One Portland hospital reportedly welcomed its first baby early Wednesday, just minutes after midnight.

Read the full story here.

Health conscious for the new year? Exercise is a crucial way to improve wellness

photoColumbian files Bicycling, hiking or walking are considered by many to be enjoyable, inexpensive and comfortable ways to get exercise.

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Those resolving to get healthy in 2014 may be relieved to know they need only one resolution for the new year.

And that resolution is an oldie but a goodie: exercise.

"If you're looking at the general population, exercise would be one of the most useful things," said Dr. Tony Daniels, a family practitioner at the Kaiser Permanente Cascade Park office. "Exercise has clinically proven benefits."

In fact, only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your overall health as physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who are physically active for about seven hours per week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes per week, according to the CDC.

Exercise has been proven to help improve blood pressure, manage arthritis, control appetite, improve mood and reduce the risk of diabetes, Daniels said. Exercise can also be therapeutic for people with chronic pain; exercise increases endorphins, which have natural pain-killing properties, he said.

"We encourage all of our patients, even very fit ones, to exercise for these benefits," Daniels said.

Read the full story here.

A meditative journey into the new year: People walk labyrinth at First Presbyterian Church

photoSome Clark County residents began 2014 with a New Year's Day labyrinth walk Wednesday at Vancouver's First Presbyterian Church. Many described the meditative experience as a way to relieve anxieties and clear the mind as a new year starts.

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Diane Weber approached the exit of the labyrinth, marked with a small rug and two candles. She paused, put her hands together, then stepped into 2014.

"It's very centering," Weber, a Vancouver resident, said of the experience. "I feel like my year starts off on the right foot."

Walking a labyrinth has become a New Year's Day ritual for Weber in recent years. She joined others in silently taking a meditative walk Wednesday through a single winding path, laid out on a large canvas inside Vancouver's First Presbyterian Church. Unlike a maze, there are no dead-ends.

The church has hosted the event for several years with Eunice Schroeder of Sacred Journey Ministries. Many visitors, including Weber, have come before. Others were stepping into a labyrinth for the first time.

Each came away with his or her own experience, often difficult to put into words.

For most, the journey represents something new every time, Schroeder said.

"We're different every time we walk," Schroeder said. "It's about what's going on inside of us."

Wednesday's participants proceeded at varying speeds. Many stopped at times. Some kept their arms folded; others held their hands out as they walked. Only the sound of soft music and shoeless feet gently shuffling on canvas settled over the room.

Read the full story here.

Traffic center keeps eyes, ears on the road

photoWashington State Department of Transportation dispatcher Dan Lee monitors a Dec. 17 car fire on state Highway 14 from his desk inside WSDOT's Traffic Management Center.

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When a car fire erupted on state Highway 14 recently, the Traffic Management Center began buzzing immediately.

Washington State Department of Transportation dispatcher Dan Lee snapped the nearest traffic camera toward the incident. The image appeared on one of the two dozen screens on the wall in front of him.

Traffic, already heavy in the pre-dawn morning commute, started backing up. The car was engulfed in a glowing fireball as other vehicles crept by -- some too close for comfort.

Email and text alerts went out within minutes. Another WSDOT employee in the room fired off a message on Twitter. Radios

chattered as highway crews and Washington State Patrol troopers responded on the ground. Another dispatcher described the location to an officer.

"You can't miss it," she said.

The Traffic Management Center is a joint operation shared by WSDOT and Washington State Patrol, housed in the Vancouver office building the two agencies also share as their regional headquarters. It's the nerve center where dispatchers keep watch over state highways in seven counties across Southwest Washington, and where troopers coordinate their own resources in the region.

Read the full story here.

Burgerville to lower prices, eliminate rewards program

VANCOUVER — Burgerville announced Monday it will lower prices of popular menu items and discontinue its rewards card program to better compete for customers.

Starting Jan. 7, Burgerville is cutting 20 cents from the price of its Tillamook cheeseburger and 1/4-pound Colossal burger, to $3.99; its cheeseburger with fries and a drink to $4.99 and the hamburger meal to $4.79. And Burgerville will no longer charge for sides of its special sauce.

Read the full story here.

Camas rallies to replace vandalized headstone

photoEd Senchyna, senior grounds maintenance worker at Camas Cemetery, stands by the grave of Alexander Stuber. Stuber's headstone, smashed in October, will be replaced through donations from the community and Vancouver Granite Works.

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A name, dates of birth and death, and a quote from the Bible: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." Timothy 4:7.

That's most of what anyone knows of Alexander Stuber, the man whose gravestone was smashed into pieces last fall.

Police were called at 11:40 p.m. Oct. 23 and found that 15 headstones in Camas Cemetery had been toppled.

Camas police investigated the incident and by the next day had arrested Michael Garwood, 21, of Camas. He originally faced 15 counts of violating laws that protect cemeteries and second-degree criminal mischief, but the prosecuting attorney's office didn't file the charges. Charges against Garwood could be filed later, Sgt. Scot Boyles said. The case remains open, and police are actively looking for a second suspect.

Most of the gravestones were pushed off their base, so crews put them upright the next morning. Stuber's marker though, made of 2-inch thick marble, was smashed beyond repair.

"I've always dreaded that some day this might happen," said Ed Senchyna, senior grounds maintenance worker at Camas Cemetery.

Read the full story here.