Thursday, June 30, 2022
June 30, 2022

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Morning Press: Legislators pay, fire boat, Mount Vista pool

The Columbian

Will the heat last through the weekend? Check our local weather coverage.

In case you missed it, here are some of the top stories of the week

Legislators run tab of $600,000 in overtime

While campaigning, freshman lawmaker Lynda Wilson made a promise: If elected, she wouldn’t accept state-paid food and lodging allowances during special sessions.

“If the government can’t get their job done in the time allotted, I wasn’t going to burden the state any further,” the Vancouver representative said.

She kept her word.

But she didn’t anticipate the 2015 legislative session would be the longest single-year session in the state’s history.

Lawmakers are allowed $120 per day to help offset food and lodging expenses while they are in session. They also are reimbursed for some mileage costs. The costs from the three special overtime sessions already top $600,000 with per diem, travel and temporary staff costs for both chambers. The House has not finished tallying its total. Lawmakers were set to adjourn at the end of April but were unable to agree on a balanced budget until July.

Read more about the cost of the special session.

Fire boat tour offers officials views of riverfront projects

With blue skies and temperatures in the 70s, it was the perfect day for a boat tour of the Columbia River.

But the boat the Vancouver City Council, city staff members, and Port of Vancouver and business leaders boarded Monday was no pleasure craft. It was the Vancouver Fire Department’s new $1.59 million quick-response boat, Discovery, purchased with a federal grant. Dedicated in May 2014, the 46-foot long boat named after Capt. George Vancouver’s vessel is equipped to respond to fires, medical calls, chemical spills and search-and-rescue missions.

It took a full year to train the fire department to use the custom-designed boat, which is the biggest fire boat that the builder, Munson Marine, has ever constructed, said Fire Division Chief Steve Eldred. The vessel officially went into service earlier this summer, on June 15.

“It’s not something where you can just take guys and say, ‘go drive it,’ ” Eldred said.

Learn more about the new fire boat.

Former Evergreen drama teacher pleads guilty to sex with student

A former Evergreen High School drama teacher pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that she had sex with a 15-year-old male student.

Stephanie McCrea, 36, pleaded guilty to four counts of third-degree rape of a child and one count of tampering with a witness. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 30 following a presentencing investigation.

McCrea and a 15-year-old boy began a sexual relationship in early December, according to court records. The two met before school and after drama practice, where they kissed and she performed oral sex on him, court documents state.

During Christmas break, McCrea picked the boy up from his house, took him to her house and had sex with him before meeting other drama students to watch a movie at a local theater, court papers say.

McCrea had sex with the student again in her office on the first day back to school after winter break, according to the documents.

Learn more about the McCrea deal.

Vancouver signs new company to treat wastewater

Starting next year, a new company will operate and maintain Vancouver’s two wastewater treatment plants and industrial food-waste pretreatment lagoon under a 10-year contract the City Council approved Monday.

The contract with Colorado-based engineering consulting firm CH2M (Operations Management International Inc.) will save the city about $1.6 million per year. The total operation and maintenance costs for the wastewater plants are projected to be $8.1 million next year, compared with $9.7 million in 2014. The first several years’ savings will pay for two proposed capital improvement projects at the treatment facilities, according to city documents.

Veolia Water has operated the city’s Marine Park and Westside water reclamation facilities since 1978, on a contract last renewed in 2011.

In 2013, the city council decided that an open competition for wastewater treatment would ensure the city was getting the best-quality services at the most competitive price, and after nearly two years, the city’s proposal evaluation committee recommended hiring CH2M.

Learn more the new contract.

Mount Vista pool removal decision makes waves

For eight years, the 70,000-gallon pool sitting behind the Mount Vista Homeowners Association recreation center has sat unused.

Green grime covers the bottom and sides of the pool, turning the once-clear water murky. The plastering on the pool surface is deteriorating, creating spaces for pathogens and algae to live.

Last month, Clark County Public Health officials said the pool is considered a “public health hazard” in its current condition. The homeowners association’s insurance company is now looking into the situation, potentially putting the organization’s coverage in jeopardy.

Read about the pool dispute.

Kearney Breast Center dragon boat takes first lap

A pink dragon slipped into Vancouver Lake Thursday morning, taking a lap in the calm waters the dragon will now call home.

This wasn’t just any dragon, though. It was the new PeaceHealth Kearney Breast Center dragon boat — a boat dedicated to breast cancer survivors and life after cancer — and it was touching water for the first time.

PeaceHealth unveiled the new dragon boat at a blessing ceremony Thursday morning at Vancouver Lake Regional Park.

“We are blending the PeaceHealth blessing tradition with the Zen Buddhist blessing tradition,” Carol Van Natta, executive director of the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Foundation, told the dozens of people in attendance.

Rosanne Ponzetti, PeaceHealth’s vice president of mission services, performed the PeaceHealth blessing. And five Buddhist monks from the Chu Lin Zen Temple performed a traditional blessing for the boat.

“Bless the lives of all who come to this boat,” Ponzetti said.

Read more the new dragon boat.

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