This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Putnam County firefighters and EMTs spoke up at a town hall meeting Thursday, voicing concerns about a variety of issues including working conditions, retention, mandatory overtime, vehicle maintenance, transfers and morale. Union President Clu Wright noting negotiations are still going on pointed to a continuing loss of firefighters and a lack of response from county officials at times. “Pay is not everything,” he said, going over concerns. It was a theme repeated by others as they spoke of the issues including a turnover rate of 85 people in two years. Commissioners said the service is a top priority but noted funding must be addressed. One option under consideration – restructuring into one department. No action was taken at the meeting.
Bardin Bridge off State Road 100 in Putnam County may be fixed much sooner than expected. Florida Department of Transportation has sent a funding agreement to the county and the county attorney is reviewing it today. Commissioners will vote on it at a special meeting Tuesday at 9 a.m. Commission Chair Terry Turner announced the agreement at a town hall meeting Thursday night, noting word had only been received in the last couple of days. Several plans to fix the bridge, which is no longer certified for heavy trucks or school buses, have been rejected by engineers.
Florida Highway Patrol now says 19 cars were struck by BBs or pellets Wednesday night during a shooting spree that began in Seminole County on Interstate 4 and continued up into St. Johns County on Interstate 95. An SUV thought driven in the incident has been taken into evidence and FHP is talking to several individuals. One car was hit by pellets in Seminole, 15 in Volusia and three in St. Johns County on I-95 near International Golf Parkway.
Palatka Police are questioning several individuals about a shooting Sunday evening in Palatka at the intersection of Washington and 17th streets. The man found at the scene had two bullet wounds and was flown to an Orange Park hospital. Multiple shell casings were found as well as a brown car reportedly used by the shooter.
A Flagler County Sheriff’s Office detective will return to duty shortly after six weeks suspension following his arrest in November outside a St. Augustine bar. Detective Richard Petkovsek was charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest without violence, misdemeanors, after an argument with bouncers at the White Lion bar. Petkovsek received a variety of disciplinary actions. Sheriff’s Office officials said until the incident he “demonstrated nothing but professionalism and passion for community service” and believe he will “successfully compete his probation agreement and live up to the standard of conduct expected” of Sheriff’s Office employees.
The state fire marshal is investigating the cause of five empty mobile homes in the Melrose area burning earlier this week. Firefighters from Melrose, Alachua County and Windsor worked for an hour before the fire was under control.
Although the weather may not cooperate, you might want to take a walk on the St. Johns County Fishing Pier. As of Monday it’s closed for nearly five months for repairs and rehabilitation. The visitor center and splash park will remain open.
While Nights of Lights continues in St. Augustine until Feb. 2, this weekend will be the last chance to take advantage of Villa Zorayda’s annual candlelight tours of the museum. Located on King Street, the museum was built as a private home and modeled after one of the wings of the Alhambra castle in Spain. Also ending on Sunday will be the family-friendly Venardos Circus at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. The circus pays tribute to the traditional circus experience with a new generation mix of Broadway style and high quality under their small big top.
Tonight you can enjoy St. Augustine First Friday Art Walk from 5 to 9 p.m. in downtown St. Augustine or head to Melrose for the First Friday Art Walk and Arts ‘n’ Antiques Show at Mossman Hall on State Road 26. The free community event is hosted by The Mossman Home Preservation Foundation and includes live music.