The Voice of the Gem City

November 26, 2019

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

People are gearing down for Thanksgiving. A reminder schools are closed in Flagler County all this week while Putnam County schools have early release today and will be out for the rest of the week. St. Johns County schools are closed Thursday and Friday. Most government offices will be closed Thursday and Friday. In Putnam County today, county commissioners are busy with a regular meeting in the morning and a transportation committee meeting in the afternoon. Palatka City Commission holds a special meeting at 4:30 this afternoon for approval Palatka Porchfest on Dec. 7.

Q.I. Roberts Jr.-Sr. High School holds its fall festival tonight after a potential shooting threat Monday led to an investigation at the campus of the school off State Road 100 in western Putnam County. An anonymous tip through the Fortify Florida app caused school resource officers to remove a 14-year-old student from class. Putnam County Sheriff’s Office questioned the youth and reportedly continue to investigate. No weapons were found on the student or on campus. Sheriff Gator DeLoach said the tip meant the student was quickly removed from class and no lock down had to be issued.

St. Johns County was among 23 Florida counties apparently targeted by a gang of retail thieves who have been operating across the southeast, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Three suspects have been arrested and two more are sought in the scheme that saw more than 100 thefts totaling more than $150,000 in Florida alone. The gang used a barcode switch scam bringing in fraudulent UPC barcodes on adhesive stickers and putting them over store UPC barcodes. Home Depot and Target stores were targeted.

Belle Terre Elementary School’s principal announced his retirement to school staff Monday. That came five days after Terence Culver submitted a letter to the district saying he was retiring as of Jan. 3. Culver has led the school six years. The district confirmed an investigation involving unaccounted dollars in the PTO’s account was underway and they were also looking into complaints of a hostile work environment at the school. A new principal is expected to be named within a few days.

In Flagler County work continues on and near State Road A1A, one of the area’s hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2017. First segment of the work is finished and the second segment from South 22nd Street to South Ninth Street is more than three-quarters completed. Paving is scheduled to get underway by the end of the month as work continues on median curbs, sidewalks, driveway and lime rock bases.

A Putnam County corrections officer has been fired by the Sheriff’s Office after an investigation determined he used excessive force.  Franklyn Batchelor, a former sheriff’s deputy, reportedly threw a pot of coffee at an inmate after the inmate opened a jail door, the door hit Batchelor and coffee sloshed on his uniform. The corrections officer told investigators due to “previous hostile incidents involving coffee or liquid” his instant reaction was to defend himself.

In Florahome residents are hoping to restore their 100-year-old Village Improvement Association clubhouse. Civic-minded women in the small community began the association in 1913 to help improve the town. In 1923 they authorized spending $133.50 to buy lumber to build a clubhouse in Florahome’s Palmetto Park. The active community on State Road 100 now hopes to restore the building for community uses, says Meri-lin Solana Piantanida. Checks can be made to out to the Florahome Park and Heritage Association Inc. and sent to P.O. Box 114, Florahome.

 

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