Countdown is on to a new year. Schools remain closed in Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler counties this week. Don’t forget county and city governments in the area will be closed on Wednesday, Jan. 1. The holiday will mean some changes for trash and garbage pick-up although in St. Augustine trash pick-up will still take place on New Year’s Day. In Palatka city trash crews will be celebrating the holiday with a day off.
Beachgoers are being warned about Portuguese Men of War washing up at St. Augustine and Neptune beaches. The beasties can give you a sting you won’t soon forget. If you are stung, reporting to a lifeguard station is advised. You can treat it yourself using vinegar and then removing tentacles. Older remedies included meat tenderizer or tobacco.
Lots of people will be at St. Augustine Beach New Year’s Eve. That’s when the City of St. Augustine Beach puts on Beach Blast Off at the St. Johns County Pier Park. It’s a family-friendly celebration running from 4 to 10 p.m. and includes a Kids Zone, live entertainment and a spectacular fireworks show all for free. Food and beverages are available for purchase. Best feature may be the free parking and shuttles.
If your New Year’s resolutions include getting healthier, head for Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka on New Year’s Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the park holds a variety of events including two guided hikes. A timeline exhibit offers information on the park and the 85th anniversary of Florida State Parks. Kids get a chance to try their hand at landscape architecture. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. there’s a Photo Scavenger Hunt with top prize going to the individual or team that first finds 20 designated locations in the park and gets photos of them.
A DeLeon Springs man is charged with second-degree murder after reportedly confessing to deputies from Flagler and Volusia counties Thursday. The case began Dec. 23 when Flagler deputies found the body of a woman rolled up in a comforter on a futon inside an RV in Bunnell. She was later identified as Jillian Petrotto, 31. Ronald H. Collins Jr., 51, was questioned by deputies from Volusia and Flagler and later confessed to killing Petrotto inside his DeLeon Springs home, according to authorities. The two were in an on-again, off again relationship. Authorities report Collins said he blacked out during the incident and didn’t remember details. He became angry because Petrotto was going out to get money for drugs. She sustained blunt force trauma to her head and was strangled.
An accident Friday morning in Putnam County that involved two horses being trapped for hours in a horse trailer is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol. Putnam County and Flagler county emergency management and fire crews worked several hours to get the horses out after the trailer overturned into a deep ditch on East Cracker Swamp Road off State Road 207 in East Palatka. Reportedly one of the horses had to be put down because of injuries.
It was a happier ending for several calves that wandered off from their mother into a subdivision in St. Johns County Saturday. Deputies were called to the scene by homeowners in Oxford Estates off Longleaf Pine Parkway in northern St. Johns County. The mother – named Sweet Pea – was already searching for her calves so the four deputies who responded were quickly able to reunite mother and children.