The Voice of the Gem City

April 5, 2019

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Palatka City Commissioners are looking at taking out a $2 million loan to buy property and build or renovate a building for the public works department. Commissioners at a special meeting Wednesday approved the move and gave Mayor Terrill Hill, acting City Manager Betsy Driggers and City Attorney Don Holmes permission to negotiate. The 4-0 vote came after little public discussion but it was evident the city has been working on the public works move. Public works is currently housed at Ocean and North 10th streets.

For the third time in 11 months the City of Palatka is starting over the process of hiring a new city manager. City officials Wednesday said the recommendation had been made to scrap the latest effort which had come up with four finalists. City Clerk Betsy Driggers has been filling in as city manager since the commission fired Zeriah Folston in July 2018. The move came a day before he would have been eligible for a hefty compensation package upon dismissal.

Nine men have been arrested by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office following an online sex sting operation. “Operation Downpour” was conducted on the internet “to locate and identify persons who use it to sexually exploit children,” said the Sheriff’s Office. Undercover detectives posed as children online and nine individuals traveled to a location to solicit what they thought would be children. Instead they found St. Johns County detectives waiting for them.

Flagler County School Board has okayed an $811,000 contract with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to continue providing a deputy at each of the  10 public schools in the county. Overall some $1.7 million will be spent to comply with state laws requiring schools have either law enforcement officers or armed and trained civilian staff members.

Art is the thing in St. Augustine this week. Tonight Lightner After-Hours offers a free social event including plein air artists painting in the mezzanine area of the downtown museum. Cocktails, light hors d’oeuvres and music by Ramona are part of the event from 6 to 8 p.m. A number of artists are in St. Augustine taking part in the third annual Plein Air Paint Out that continues through May 1. St. Augustine Art Association is promoting the eight-day event which will include a juried art exhibit “Where Art Meets History” at the Association’s Marine Street gallery.

No one was reported injured Wednesday in Palm Coast when a special needs Flagler County school bus was involved in a minor collision at Rymfire and Rickenbacker drives. Nine special needs students were on the bus which was headed to Belle Terre Elementary School. Neither they, the bus driver nor the driver of the vehicle that struck the bus were injured, according to Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.

Reports of a plane crash in Putnam County Wednesday turned out to be old news. Palatka Fire Chief J.R. Grimes said a call came in Wednesday morning after a concerned resident saw a picture on Google Maps showing a crashed object in the St. Johns River near Brown’s Landing. Units did respond to check out the scene. Turned out the image was from 2017.

Don’t forget Sunday is the annual meeting and barbecue at Rodeheaver Boys Ranch, a non-profit that provides a home for some 50 at-risk young men. The barbecue is a yearly tradition at the ranch, which was founded in 1950 by evangelist Homer Rodeheaver.

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