The Voice of the Gem City

April 6, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Beach lovers are ready to return to the waves. In St. Johns County a petition is making the rounds from The Surf Community and already has more than 10,000 signatures. They’re asking county leadership to look at allowing beaches to reopen but with restrictions including only allowing county residents with valid IDs and restricting hours from dawn until 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. until dark. The request is expected to come up at Tuesday’s St. Johns County Commission special meeting at 8:30 a.m. People can participate in the meeting by calling 904-209-1265 and making their comments. They can watch the meeting on GTV or online. Meetings remain open but physical access is limited.

People are looking for things to do especially walking. With beaches and parks closed, many are now walking along A1A in St. Johns County. That’s led authorities to express concerns about traffic safety since the stretch is also heavily used by vehicles.

Latest coronavirus figures for the area show 141 identified cases and two deaths in St. Johns County, 31 cases and one death in Flagler and 19 cases and one death in Putnam. The latest case in Putnam was announced Sunday with a 49-year-old Palatka woman testing positive.

Flagler County officially has a new school superintendent following negotiations between the school district and Cathy Mittelstadt, who takes over July 1. However, some friction was apparent among the board when they voted down her one request ,which was to require a super majority on a contract clause that would let the board fire her without cause during her first year. Three of the school board seats are up for election this year and that could change the make-up of the board. By a 3-2 vote the board approved her contract; while they didn’t grant her request, they did agree to a $154,200 salary.

Palatka City Commission is set to meet Thursday. That’s their regular meeting time and an update on coronavirus measures is expected.

Putnam Emergency Operations Center workers are fielding dozens of calls. On Friday therapy dog Bailey and handler Detective Kacie Reynolds stopped by to give a little therapy. Bailey’s primary assignment is to help in cases involving children, domestic abuse victims and the elderly. The EOC visit gave some comfort to workers, first responders and health department officials. They in turn gave Bailey lots of hugs and pats. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily to answer questions and health officials are helping screen calls and monitor positive cases. Number to call is 386-329-1904.

With qualifying nearing and petitions for candidates needing to be signed, state Elections Office are making adjustment due to self-isolation and social distancing orders. Petitions will now be accepted without the original signature. Once candidates get the petitions, they can send copies or email of copy of their petition to voters who can complete them and send them back either by mail or email.

St. Augustine’s shrimpers, boat builders and marine artisans will soon have a monument to their contributions. John Verseggi, whose family has been a mainstay in northeast Florida’s shrimping industry, has announced sometime in June or July a new monument will be constructed on the San Sebastian River and dedicated to those in the shrimping industry. It’s being funded by local families who worked in the industry, which once was a major way of life and employed hundreds.

Word for the week – antsy. Sara Hetherington in Palm Port says heading into the third week of coronavirus isolation definitely has her feeling antsy. However, she’s doing her part, sewing masks and putting up a stuffed bear in the window for passersby to spot. So are her neighbors, she says. The whole stuffed bear idea was inspired by the book Going On A Bear Hunt and gives people something to look for while out walking with family. Sara does think since it’s Florida we might start putting up flamingos in our windows.



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