The Voice of the Gem City

September 25, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

St. Augustine’s Confederate Memorial that was drummed out of town by the City Commission has been vandalized at its new location at Trout Creek Fish Camp. St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office reports someone Thursday night tried to set fire to the 100,000 pound, 30-foot obelisk that lists the names of St. Johns County men who died fighting for the Confederacy. Wooden structures on both sides of the monument were partially burned and the memorial and concrete pavement base were spray painted in orange. One message left in paint read: “You make us look bad.” The vandalism is on private property where Thursday crews erected the obelisk. Beams were still to be removed and surrounding packing material waiting to be removed was set fire. Officials said the fire singed the material. Moving the obelisk cost the city more than $300,000 after a 3-2 vote led by Mayor Tracy Upchurch. No prior vandalism has been reported while the statue was in the well-traveled plaza downtown.

Putnam County has plans to move its Confederate memorial after a recent 4-1 vote by the county commission. They haven’t decided where but a citizens committee has been appointed by the commission and officials are seeking to set up a meeting by next week. Only responsibility of the committee is to make location suggestions and their suggestions aren’t binding. County Commission Chair Terry Turner has said the county won’t pay for the move and money must be raised by the public.

Palatka City Commission is still mulling Halloween celebrations. Normally downtown merchants host Boo on the Avenue to give younger children a chance to show off their costumes and collect candy during the daytime. An older group usually takes part in Trunk or Treat at the Palatka Mall parking lot in an event overseen by Palatka Recreation and the Police Athletic League. Commissioners Thursday indicated the Palatka Mall event could happen as a drive thru event with candy stations set up and delivery through pipes. Downtown merchants may be allowed to hold their event if adequate protections and social distancing can be put in place. A final decision will be made in October. At least there shouldn’t be any lack of masks available.

Palatka Fire Department’s Capt. Chris Taylor is interim fire chief for the city following the resignation of Chief J.R. Grimes. Grimes, a 16-year veteran of the fire service, has been named executive director of public safety for Putnam County, a newly created position. City Manager Don Holmes appointed Taylor as interim fire chief and commissioners applauded the choice at Thursday’s commission meeting.

Two men are in jail in Flagler County after a traffic stop that went wrong. Volusia County’s Air One helicopter was helping find a suspect who fled the stop shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday on Palm Harbor Parkway in Palm Coast. As they searched, the Air One crew was repeatedly hit by a green laser light. The laser lights can blind pilots causing crashes. Air One eventually led Flagler deputies to the house of Gregory Marr, 60, who was charged with pointing the laser. Recorded video footage from the copter was used to positively identify Marr who was booked into the Flagler jail on a $1,500 bond. Also arrested from the traffic stop was Jeff Thomas , 36, who was charged with driving while license suspended, fleeing and resisting arrest and loitering and prowling. He was booked into the Flagler jail on a $4,500 bond.

This weekend will see the closing of the St. Augustine Flea Market after a 35-year run. The flea market at the intersection of State Road 207 and Interstate 95 is closing after Baptist Health got the OK for the land to be rezoned so they can put up 525,000 square feet of buildings for office and commercial use include space for hospital uses. The proposed development will be called The Pavilion at S.R. 207.

Putnam County Historical Society annual historical re-enactment The Occupation of Palatka 1864 is going virtual this Saturday. Coronavirus and the subsequent closing of the city-owned Bronson-Mulholland House where the event is held in Palatka led to a change to a virtual re-enactment this year. Music from the Civil War period, demonstrations of weapons, visits from historical figures and a portion of a play about a pair of women spies will be shown beginning this Saturday on YouTube. You can go online to the Putnam County Historical Society website or Facebook site beginning at 11 a.m. to watch. About every half hour a new show will be presented. The site will be up for two weeks.

Coronavirus nearly meant no Friday night football for Palatka High School’s 2020 homecoming celebration. Clay County High had to cancel because of their team’s exposure to coronavirus. Scrambling by Panther coaches and staff led to a new opponent — East Lake High Eagles of Tarpon Springs. They had an open date after coronavirus concerns took out their planned opponent. WIYD will carry tonight’s game with coverage beginning around 6:45 p.m. You can listen on either 1260 AM or 104.9 FM.

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