The Voice of the Gem City

NEWS MAY 13, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Governments are looking to the future and Fourth of July fireworks. Coronavirus has most cities taking a wait-and-see attitude but Jacksonville says its going forward while Jacksonville Beach hasn’t made a decision. St. Augustine first said it wasn’t going to have fireworks but City Manager John Regan now says a decision will be made at the end of May. Fireworks over the Matanzas normally draws thousands downtown. Palatka is still waiting to make a decision on whether to have fireworks at the riverfront and other city governments in Putnam are talking about what to do. Flagler Beach has canceled plans for fireworks.

Electronic meetings for now are the norm for governments. Putnam County commissioners and Welaka Town Council both used communication technology to hold their meetings Tuesday. Palatka and Crescent City will be doing the same when they meet later this week. Palatka, which did allow a few people in the commission chambers where Mayor Terrell Hill has been sitting, now is telling people who want to watch in the room this Thursday that no one from the public is allowed. In St. Augustine the city commission went back to 5 p.m. meetings this week so more of the public could participate. After one meeting three commissioners – Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman and commissioners Roxanne Horvath and Nancy Sikes-Kline voted to go back to the 10 a.m. time. Mayor Tracy Upchurch had called for returning to 5 p.m. saying it was what the public knew and expected.

Putnam County Tax Collector Linda Myers will be seeking a third term. She made the announcement Tuesday.

Flagler Beach commissioners are looking at purchasing a $571,000 fire truck. Nearly five years ago the proposal to buy a $568,000 combination ladder and pumper truck found strong opposition and took some 18 months. Some 650 people signed a petition in opposition although a 4-1 vote eventually led to the purchase. Some people are already rallying to fight the new expenditure.

Florida Department of Health’s latest figures for coronavirus cases as of Tuesday show 127 cases in Putnam, 223 in St. Johns and 147 in Flagler.

State parks continue reopening with Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka the latest. Only about 20 percent of the park is open while crews work on large portions of the roadway around the ravines that were damaged by hurricanes over the last couple of years.

Abnormally dry conditions continue throughout most of St. Johns River Water Management District. That’s despite above-average rainfall, says the district. April rainfall averaged 4 inches districtwide, 1.4 inches above the long-term average. However in Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties each has a 12- month deficit greater than 10 inches.

Not showing any shortage – the annual invasion of love bugs. Drivers are facing tens of thousands as the bugs begin their monthlong mating season. Good news, it only goes on for four weeks in May and again in September, according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Worst hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and they love the weather when its 84 degrees or higher. The unwanted visitors first showed up in the U.S. in the 1920s, making their way from Central America. They didn’t find Florida until the 1940s.


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