The Voice of the Gem City

December 11, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

St. Augustine High School is hoping for an early Christmas present today as the school’s football team takes on Lake Minneola High School in the 6A state semifinals. Winner will play for the state title in Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee Dec. 18. The Yellow Jackets started slow with a 1-2 record but have turned that around to 10-2. The game is at Lake Minneola High in Clermont.

Crescent City Commission meeting was standing room only as residents put up with social distancing Thursday to find out the latest on the future of the town’s police department. The six people in the department are on paid leave as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement looks into questions about officer training and certification. At the meeting Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach offered a proposal for his office to take over law enforcement duties on a permanent basis. They’re already handling calls during the investigation. Commissioners agreed to suspend an ongoing search for a new police chief and negotiate with the sheriff’s office. Still to come, the public having a say. That will happen Dec. 17. A Facebook page already has been posted by advocates of the department who say while they support the Sheriff’s Office Crescent City needs to keep its own department.

In Palatka Thursday night the Palatka City Commission paid tribute to one of their own as Vice Mayor and Commissioner Mary Lawson Brown attended what is probably her last working meeting. After 36 years she made the decision not to seek re-election this year. Willie “Slurb” Jones will be sworn in on Jan. 4 to her seat. Brown, meanwhile, will continue working to promote the city. A small business center she’s pushed for years is moving forward under the Putnam Chamber of Commerce and she’s now looking for ways to fund a revolving fund to provide financial help to those small businesses.

In Flagler Beach the City Commission Thursday unanimously approved a special exception for putting a hotel on the same site where one stood before being demolished in 1972. Flagler Beach Hotel at South Second Street and Old Moody Boulevard was built n 925 and torn down in 1972. Since then the lot has been empty but for many years served as a farmer’s market. Still to come before the commission are drawings of what the new hotel will look like.

Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties each reported a coronavirus-related death Thursday according to the Florida Department of Health. In Putnam, a 66-year-old man’s death brought the total since counting began in March to 62. Also reported Thursday in Putnam were 52 new cases, bringing total reported to 3,094.  In St. Johns County 103 deaths have now been reported. In addition 90 new coronavirus cases were reported bringing the total to 9,942. In Flagler County the death count is now at 46. On Thursday 22 new coronavirus cases were reported, for a total of 2,958.

Palatka has a new fire chief. Palatka City Commission Thursday officially approved Chris Taylor to step up from interim chief to chief of the fire department. A 14-year veteran of the department, Taylor was appointed to fill in after Chief J.R. Grimes resigned to take over public safety operations for Putnam County.

This weekend will see a variety of holiday events with all finding ways to follow coronavirus prevention guidelines.

Today through Sunday a three-day music event takes place at St. Johns Fairgrounds. The Wham Bam Fam Jam Festival will offer live music from more than 20 area musicians for an event helping to support area artists. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the Fairgrounds off State Road 207 near Elkton in St. Johns County.

Just down the road in Elkton at Sykes Family Farms offers Elkton’s Bright Nights of Drive Thru Lights. Cost is $20 per car for the show which features lighted exhibits around the property.

Tonight and Saturday enjoy the St. Augustine Orchestra at Lightner Museum. The orchestra will perform throughout the museum and guests get to stroll around from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

In Palatka meet the Jets and the Sharks in a modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet as the Broadway hit musical West Side Story opens tonight through Sunday. The Palatka High School Musical Theatre Department production had to be pulled last year because of coronavirus but it’s back and better than ever at the C.L. Overturf Sixth Grade Center auditorium Tickets are $20.

If you’re looking for outdoor entertainment, head to Ravine Gardens State Park on Twigg Street in Palatka. You can look for the 10 hidden elves by following a set of rhymes for the scavenger hunt. Take a picture of each and send it into the Ravines for a chance to win prizes. Contest ends Dec. 15. Find out more by going to the Ravines website.

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