The Voice of the Gem City

March 11, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

St. Johns County Courthouse was evacuated this morning after a bomb threat made during an anonymous phone call about 9 a.m., according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies cleared the courthouse on Lewis Speedway in St. Augustine and dogs were brought in to search the premises. An all-clear went out about 10:30 and courts were getting back in session.

One case on the St. Johns County docket today is the sentencing of Henry Haigler, the man who pled guilty to hitting and killing two St. Augustine women bicycling on Race Track Road last summer. Haigler, who drove off from the accident scene, pled guilty in January to two counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving death. He was tracked down several days after the wreck. Haigler faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

The decision by the Palatka City Commission to shove the Palatka Art League out of the Tilghman House is beginning to draw pushback from the public. A petition going around reportedly has nearly 1,000 signatures. The city had told City Manager Bill Shanahan to find the highest and best use for city properties occupied by non-profits. He advised turning it into a welcome center, restaurant or shop or selling the historic house on River Street. The city has given the Art League until December to get out but further talks are supposed to be scheduled.

In Flagler County negotiations are beginning with Cathy Mittelstadt to become the Flagler County School District’s next superintendent. School board members Tuesday voted for Mittelstadt to fill the post that will be vacant when current superintendent Jim Tager leaves in June. He’s in the state D.R.O.P. program and term limited out. MIttelstadt, who lives in Flagler County, is a deputy school  superintendent in St.. Johns County. The vote for her was first 3-1 but a second vote changed that to 4-0. Member Colleen Conklin abstained from voting since she had applied for the superintendent’s post but didn’t make the final cut.

A fire in the Hoot Owl Ridge subdivision in South Putnam County Tuesday night destroyed an unoccupied structure. Units from Crescent City Fire Department and Station 6, Station 12 and EMS 73 responded to put out the fire. No injuries were reported. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating cause of the fire.

Three boaters are safe after their small boat capsized Tuesday in the St. Augustine Inlet. St. Augustine Fire Department sent out their boat to pull two of the boaters from choppy waters. A third boater was able to swim to shore at the northern end of Anastasia Island, according to St. Johns County Fire Rescue. All three were checked out by paramedics. The boat was towed to a dock.

Coronavirus concerns continue and area school districts are taking precautions. In Putnam County that now includes plans to sanitize and disinfect all schools against the coronavirus, Superintendent Rick Surrency told school board members Tuesday. A video posted on Facebook and YouTube today shows how the district is dealing with the situation. All school-related travel is subject to cancellation and rescheduling. In St. Johns County the school board also is reviewing policies and preparations. Superintendent Tim Forson and the board have canceled all out-of-state field studies, interscholastic activities and sporting events.
Meanwhile, St. Augustine is swinging into its busiest festival season. At Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra this week golfers are gathering for The Players Championship and crowds of people are expected. Organizers for the annual Celtic Festival say this weekend’s event is still on and they’re still selling lots of advance tickets. The three-day event begins Friday evening. On Saturday the nation’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade will head through downtown beginning at 10 a.m. Events including Highland Games, music performances and entertainment featuring Scottish and Gaelic culture will be going on at Francis Field Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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