The Voice of the Gem City

July 2, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

If you come to Palatka, better have a face mask. At a special meeting Wednesday the Palatka City Commission unanimously passed a measure requiring people wear masks inside buildings. Mayor Terrill Hill, citing rising coronavirus case numbers, said other government authorities including Putnam County government, the Putnam School District and the Palatka Housing Authority would not be held to the decision but could come up with their own plans as a means of decreasing infection. All the rules aren’t finalized but some exceptions are already being made including exercise establishments and restaurants, children under 2 and people with health conditions that would be increased by wearing masks. How to handle day care facilities is being explored. Police will be required to enforce the mandate and fines of up to $500 can be imposed. Former commissioner Allegra Kitchens, who was not for the masks, typed the mandate would be “close to impossible to enforce”. The mandate took effect at 12:01 this morning and has no end date. The meeting, which barely made the 24-hour public notice requirement, was held electronically and technical issues once again were experienced. People were able to comment and discussions weren’t always civil.

An officer-involved shooting in what’s known as Daytona North/Mondex in western Flagler County just before midnight on Wednesday is under investigation. Three deputies are on paid administrative leave after the shooting, and the victim, whose name as not been released is at Halifax Hospital in Dayton Beach. Officers were attempting to serve a probation violation warrant on Steven Barneski, 30, a white man who lives on Sabal Palms Street. He was among those in the car stopped by deputies and the arrest attempt turned violent as he fought back and pulled a gun. Deputies fired back.

Coronavirus case numbers are on the rise. St. Johns County has passed the 1,000 case mark since counting began and another death has been reported bringing their total to eight deaths. On Wednesday 44 cases were announced, today 84 cases. In Putnam County the number is now at 433 cases with 42 on Wednesday and 52 announced today. Flagler County’s total is at 340 cases according to today’s reports. Thirteen cases were announced Wednesday and 15 today.

County commissions in Flagler and Putnam counties are holding special meetings today. Putnam met this morning to discuss a consultant for federal CARES act funding that is suppose to help offset local costs in dealing with coronavirus. They were also talking about future meetings with this one being held electronically. In Flagler this afternoon commissioners meet in special executive session, which means the public can’t attend. Officials are to discuss litigation in which they’re involved. That’s one of the few exceptions to the Sunshine Law.

Fourth of July is coming up this weekend, which means all those illegal fireworks become legal for the day. Palatka Police and authorities in other municipalities have been busy with the illegal fireworks being shot off hopefully won’t have to deal with that problem. Best bet to see fireworks in the area will be in Duval County which plans six locations. Almost everyone else has canceled displays.

Since the Fourth falls on a Saturday most government offices are closing July 3. That will mean a cutback in services as well. Beaches will be open. If you decide to go boating on the St. Johns River, remember Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers are patrolling and drinking and boating isn’t recommended.


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