This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Flagler County and travelers along SR A1A have an early Christmas present – the coastal roadway once again opened to northbound and southbound traffic Thursday. That’s great news for Flagler Beach businesses and residents who have been putting up with rerouted traffic since work began 10 months ago. The $22.4 million project is the result of Hurricane Matthew that tore up 1.4 miles of the roadway and washed away boulders in 2016. The permanent road replaces an emergency repair. French drains have been put in place also, a move expected to improve the flooding situation along the roadway.
Less traffic – school traffic – on the roadways in Putnam and Flagler counties today as students begin winter break. St. Johns County schools follow them beginning Monday.
St. Johns River State College students from Palatka, Orange Park and St. Augustine got a chance to mingle Thursday as fall commencement exercises were held at the Thrasher-Horne Center on the Orange Park campus. About 150 made the walk, part of some 600 receiving associate or bachelor degrees or college certificates.
If you have business at Palatka’s City Hall, get it done by 2:30 p.m. today. That’s when the government offices close for some required maintenance. Workers will be back on Monday but on Tuesday and Wednesday all city departments are closed for Christmas. Putnam County workers will be off Tuesday and Wednesday and with county commissioners’ approval only a skeleton crew will be working Monday. In St. Augustine offices for the city will be closed Monday through Wednesday. St. Johns County government offices will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. In Flagler County most county offices are closed Monday through Wednesday as is Flagler Beach.
GFWC Woman’s Club of Palatka handed out Christmas presents to area firemen Thursday in the form of hoods that protect firemen from carcinogenic substances. Nearly $4,000 was raised by the club, according to president Elizabeth van Rensberg. Originally they hoped to buy a few of the hoods that cost $125 each but as fund-raising efforts flourished they ended up purchasing 35. All of the Palatka Fire Department will be outfitted as well as most of the Interlachen department.
Lights are everywhere this weekend as Christmas draws near. St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights are proving an international attraction. In Palm Coast the Rotary Club is sponsoring the Festival of Lights with more than 50 animated holiday light exhibits. At Ravine Gardens State Park tonight and Saturday it’s a light show in the Court of States with Christmas classics as background music. The display is 6 to 7 p.m. both nights. In Bostwick the 100,000 Christmas Light Show continues on Tillets Lane, the 25th year the Smith family has put up the exhibit.
Putnam County Sheriff’s Office has a new deputy. He was sworn in Thursday, given a badge and a treat. Bailey is a yellow two-and-a-half-year old mixed breed who is an emotional support dog, trained to help crime victims cope as well as assist with elderly patients and children. He knows a thing or two about hard times. He was shot and ended up at a shelter in Brevard County. Some of the pellets are still in him. He was selected for training in the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office therapy program and eventually donated to Putnam. His handler is Deputy Kacie Reynolds, his new best friend.