The Voice of the Gem City

June 16, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Coronavirus numbers continue to inch up. In Putnam County one new case was reported Monday, according to the state Department of Health. The San Mateo woman, 20, has not traveled and has not had contact with a known case, officials say. She brings total number of cases in Putnam to 191. Of those 25 were hospitalized. In Flagler County one new case has been reported, bringing the total to 207 with 24 people hospitalized during the period. In St. Johns County seven new cases were reported Monday. bringing the total to 315. Of those 46 were hospitalized. The health departments do not list how many are still in  hospitals.

Loud music and large crowds led to the arrest of the manager of Big Homies for breach of peace on Sunday. Keith Williams had been told in the past that he needed to get permits from the city of Palatka in order to have the gatherings and follow orders for large gatherings issued by the state and city due to coronavirus. Williams ignored the requirements, according to Police Chief Jason Shaw. On Saturday night several streets in the area of 2800 Catherine Street were shut down as a crowd of 200 plus gathered and numerous complaints of loud music were phoned in by residents. It was a repeat of last week. Multiple events have occurred on Big Homies property in the past several months in violation of city ordinances and state statutes, according to Shaw. “Williams has continued to host events or allow events to be hosted on the property without proper notice despite the city’s efforts to work with him,” Shaw said. Attendees and the police found out about the latest planned gathering on social media. City officials have repeatedly expressed concerns over rising numbers of coronavirus cases, and Mayor Terrell Hill has several times pointed to large gatherings as a cause.

A wreck involving a vehicle and a semi hauling a flatbed load occurred Monday on Springside Shortcut Road near Bardin Road in Putnam County. The front of the vehicle including motor and wheels was sheared off, according to witnesses. The semi went across a ditch and the trailer was hanging out into the westbound lane. The accident happened at State Road 100 and Springside Shortcut.

An attempted traffic stop for a broken taillight ended up In a car chase in the Bunnell area of Flagler County Friday. The driver of a red Hyundai Sonata later identified as Sean Stewart, 43, ignored emergency lights, cut through the front yard of a residence and sped off, later abandoning his vehicle on South Peach Street and fleeing on foot. Sheriff’s deputies and Bunnell officers were searching for him when Stewart came around a building saying he was looking for his car. He was sweating profusely, out of breath and missing a shoe, according to the report. During questioning Stewart said he was not driving the vehicle, but let an unknown man drive him since the alleged man claimed he “knew the area.” After the chase, Stewart said, the man ran off. Deputies had already identified Stewart as the driver since they had had previous encounters with him. Stewart reportedly is moving to Flagler from Palm Beach. He was on probation for an arrest a month earlier in Flagler involving fleeing and eluding as well as drug possession. He’s once again in the Flagler jail on a variety of charges with a  $10,500 bond.

Schools are attempting to return to normal including starting up workouts for fall sports. Putnam County is already back and St. Johns County returned to facilities Monday. Flagler County is the only regional school district not back out on the fields but a June 22 return is planned for athletes.

Deciding how to return to academics is still in the air throughout the region. Putnam County has a task force looking at options. As of now, the plan is to return to classrooms Aug. 10. In St. Johns County the district has released several possible options so that in-person classwork can resume. This week parents are being asked to respond to a survey to provide input on proposed models.  During the week of June 29-July 3 families will be asked to inform the district of their intent to return in the fall. Three different proposals are being looked at based on the current status for coronavirus.

Even as some call for the end of police departments, area county commissioners are looking at budget proposals including sheriff’s offices. In Putnam, Sheriff Gator DeLoach says he needs an additional million plus to handle needed upgrades. In Flagler County, Sheriff Rick Staly is seeking more deputies but County Manager Jerry Cameron is warning money will be tight. Staly commissioned a study by the University of North Florida regarding needs. Those needs, according to the study, include 78 more deputies by 2025, starting with 31 in 2020. Cameron has told commissioners there isn’t money for that kind of staffing.

 

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