This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
A cold snap has people in Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties paying attention to freeze warnings and watches again issued for tonight. Temperatures were down in the 30s throughout the area Monday and people are warned to protect pets, plants, pipes and pools. Cold weather shelters in Palatka, Bunnell and St. Augustine will be open again tonight.
Even as cold concerns people so does the pollen. The season is off to an early start this year, nearly a month sooner than usual. Pine trees are giving off pollen currently with cedar trees coming next. Lots of other trees and plants are starting to bloom because of warmer than usual weather. That means trees such as citrus, which are beginning to bloom, are particularly vulnerable.
St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is suing their former finance director who is due in court soon to answer charges she embezzled more than $700,000 from the agency. Raye E. Brutnell allegedly got the money by making payments to accounts for fictitious vendors. Those accounts allegedly were controlled by her or her family members. Sheriff David Shoar Jan. 14 filed a suit seeking damages and asking the court to impose a trust over Brutnell’s assets and accounts and put a lien on her property to prevent anyone from benefitting financially. Brutnell was arrested in November 2018. She’s due in court Feb. 11 for a pretrial hearing.
Heavy smoke clouds were visible Monday to the south of Putnam County. They came from a controlled burn in the Ocala National Forest on the west side of the St. Johns River near Fort Gates ferry. It was part of controlled silviculture hazard removal burn of 1,200 acres.
In West Putnam fire crews responded Monday to a fully involved house fire in the 200 block of County Road 21 South. West Putnam Volunteer Fire Department, Melrose Fire Department, Interlachen Fire Department and Putnam County Fire Rescue responded.
Palatka’s new city manager Bill Shanaham continues his public meetings to find out citizens’ views on growth. At 5:30 p.m. today he’ll be at Church of the Heights, 3111 St. Johns Avenue.
Longtime Palatka businesswomn Christine Brooks Emerson has died. She and her husband, Jeff, were involved in several businesses in the area including opening The GuidePost Christian Department Store, which they operated for 31 years before selling it in 2014.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office saluted officers and citizens at their annual Sheriff’s Gala Saturday. The gala benefits the Flagler Sheriff’s Employee Assistance Fund. Sgt. Jon Reckenwald was saluted as 2019 Deputy of the Year, Detention Deputy William Kennedy as Detention Deputy of the Year, Communications Specialist Ashlie Hicks as Civilian Employee of the Year, Chaplain Juan Schembri as Volunteer of the Year and Chris and Chalyn Parks as Citizens of the Year.
Tonight top Putnam County teachers and support personnel from each school will be honored by the Putnam School District at Ravine Gardens State Park. Winners for countywide Teacher of the Year and Support Person of the Year will be named.