The Voice of the Gem City

June 10, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

In July Putnam County commissioners will hold a workshop on oak trees and the Confederate soldier monument on the Putnam County Courthouse lawn so that the public can have a say. The decision came after about a dozen citizens spoke up at Tuesday’s commission meeting about the future of what some now say are symbols of oppression to African Americans. A rally last week drew a peaceful crowd to the courthouse lawn for an event organized by two local college students. They wanted the statue, the 175-year-old Maltby Oak and all oak trees removed. That wasn’t the sentiment of most at Tuesday’s commission meeting. One woman presented a petition with more than 2,000 names with local zip codes who favor keeping both the statue and trees. Another woman had collected 95 handwritten signatures favoring retain the monument and the trees, noting getting those signatures was difficult in a time of social distancing. The college students said they, too, had a list of signatures for those wanting the items gone.

Florida Department of Health in Putnam County has announced the 175th coronavirus case in Putnam. The latest is a 21-year-old Palatka woman who both traveled and had contact with a confirmed case. Flagler County is now at 195 cases. St. Johns has 287 cases.

A veteran St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputy has been terminated after an off-duty incident where he fired his gun at a family member Monday night. Sgt. Napolian Staggers, 48, reportedly showed up intoxicated at the Ponte Vedra Beach apartment of a relative. He went to sleep there and when a family member came in to check on him 30 minutes later, the two got into an argument. Staggers reportedly slapped the individual several times before pulling out the handgun and firing it repeatedly. He wounded the victim in both feet, but the individual was able to escape to a neighbor’s apartment and call 911. Deputies responded and took Staggers into custody. Staggers, a 16-year veteran with the Sheriff’s Office, had an unblemished career record and had been honored several times including receiving an exceptional service award in 2019.

A pedestrian was struck and killed late Monday evening in San Mateo, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The 51-year-old San Mateo man was struck while walking on U.S. 17 South near Boundary Road. A 28-year-old San Mateo woman hit him as she was driving south on the road, according to the FHP report. Names of driver and pedestrian have not been released.

Fourth of July keeps getting quieter and quieter as governments pull back on celebrating in an effort to practice social distancing to reduce potential coronavirus cases. Interlachen Town Council during an on-line meeting Tuesday voted not to hold fireworks or celebrations this year. The Fourth in Interlachen normally draws thousands. The council is considering fireworks later in the year. Palatka, St. Augustine, Flagler Beach and Palm Coast have canceled their fireworks displays.

Palatka City Commission meets Thursday, once again going on-line rather than have an in-person meeting the public can attend. Two public hearings are scheduled including one seeking a Community Development block grant for disaster relief for Hurricane Irma. The meeting is at 6 p.m. To comment, you need to get on Zoom, which can be done by going to the Palatka city hall Facebook site.


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