The Voice of the Gem City

November 1, 2019

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Expect some changes to traffic patterns in Putnam and St. Johns counties thanks to Florida Department of Transportation projects.

Beginning today access to Park Avenue from State Road 20 in Interlachen will be unavailable through early December. On Nov. 6 access to Francis Street becomes unavailable through early December. It’s part of the $23 million widening of State Road 20 from Alachua to Putnam.

St. Augustine will be seeing a resurfacing project on U.S. 1 beginning in the winter of 2020. The project runs from State Road 207 to the City Gate and is expected to cost $15 million. FDOT is looking at doing away with all parking along U.S. 1, converting those to biking lanes. Several median access points may be closed as well. A public hearing is set for Nov. 17 from 4-6 p.m. at the St. Johns County Health Building on San Sebastian Way to give the public a chance to comment before final plans are approved.

Don’t forget Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday morning. Turn your clocks back an hour. It’s also a good time to change the batteries in smoke detectors.

A 44-year-old man who went on Facebook Live to film himself setting fire to his Palatka area residence and vehicle is in jail, according to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. Robert Barker reportedly livestreamed himself setting the fires although he later denied burning the home or vehicle. The Sheriff’s Office SWAT team also responded to the residence Wednesday night because Barker had made threats on Facebook. He was in jail Thursday night on a $20,000 bond on one count of first-degree arson and one count of second-degree arson.

Bunnell city government is facing scrutiny from the federal Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville following a decision in July to shut down the county’s only cold weather homeless shelter. For 11 years the shelter has been run out of First United Methodist Church on North Pine Street. Some residents have complained about the shelter. The government is looking at city zoning rules and practices. At the request of the DOJ the city has agreed to allow The Sheltering Tree to operate this winter pending resolution of the investigation.

The oldest football rivalry in Northeast Florida is on tonight as Palatka and St. Augustine high schools take to the field in St. Augustine. For 100 or maybe 101 years the rivalry has endured, and senior players and cheerleaders from both schools will be getting commemorative coins tonight.

Other events this weekend include the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Police Athletic League hosting their second state boxing tournament at St. Johns River State College in Palatka Saturday and Sunday. A barbecued ribs fund-raiser for the Fort Gates Ferry is Saturday at Hitchcock’s Parking Lot in East Palatka Saturday. You can get the last of your boo out at the Bronson-Mulholland House at 7 p.m. Saturday night with a free showing of the 1954 thriller Creature From the Black Lagoon. The movie and popcorn are free courtesy of the Putnam County Historical Society. The movie was filmed in part in Rice Creek in Putnam County. Tonight in St. Augustine is the monthly First Friday Art Walk. On Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. it’s the Great Chowder Debate at the Conch House. The charity fundraiser gives restaurants bragging rights for best chowder.

St. Augustine’s Phil Genovar has died. He was a mover and shaker in an orange shirt who owned Dixie Custom, lots of land and a big heart for St. Augustine. He was a founding member of the Sertoma Club and helped string the lights in the early years when the club started Nights of Lights. For 40 plus years he rode on horseback for the city’s Easter Parade, which he helped organize and run. During the city’s 400th anniversary he portrayed Pedro Menendez, even going to New York by plane in full conquistador regalia. And to promote the celebration he and a fellow Jaycee drove a horse and carriage from St. Augustine to the National Jaycees Convention in Atlanta. Phil was one of a kind.

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