The Voice of the Gem City

December 16, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Palatka city officials continue to tweak efforts to make downtown a destination. Ayers Associates, the firm tasked with producing proposals, is looking for input today and Thursday for the St. Johns Avenue Reimaging placemaking project. Landscape architect Chris Silewski with Ayers is on St. Johns Avenue today meeting with property owners and/on business owners. On Thursday he’ll be at Azalea City Brewery on South Sixth Street from 1-7 p.m. for one-on-one meeting with people. You have to schedule a time. His email is

St. Augustine City Commission will be going to hybrid meetings and an outside podium for speakers who resist wearing masks. Hybrid meetings mean some people will be in the same room with commissioners with the rest attending via conference call or web conference. Not everyone was pleased, with one of the speakers at Monday’s meeting telling the commission “Show up and do your jobs.”

The fire rescue training facility in Flagler County is being renamed to recognize the late John R. Keppler. It’s recognition for Keppler’s service and in a way a resolution of 18 years by the family to get the county to recognize his end-of-duty death. Keppler, a retired firefighter from Pennsylvania and a volunteer captain in Flagler County, died in 2002 on the way to the hospital after suffering chest pains as he attempted to respond to a call, according to records. At the time such deaths were not considered line-of-duty deaths.

Coronavirus concerns have the Putnam County School District warning people of a possible case increase over the Christmas holidays. Putnam Academy of arts and Sciences on Palm Avenue in Palatka closed their campus Tuesday after reported cases. They’ll return Jan. 4. Last day for schools in Putnam before Winter Break is Friday. St. Johns County schools go on break Friday also, with schools letting out an hour early. Flagler County schools have their last day Dec. 21.

Florida Department of Health continues urging safety to prevent coronavirus spread. In Putnam County 12 new cases were reported Tuesday with two confirmed as direct contact with positive cases and five community spread. The rest are under investigation. Vintage Care Senior Living in Palatka is once again locked down after a worker reportedly tested positive. All residents are being tested. Putnam is now at 3,264 cases since counting began in March. Flagler County reported 27 new coronavirus cases, bringing their total to 3,106 cases. St. Johns County reported 120 cases, putting their total count at 10,542.

Food needs remain a real concern in the United States because of closings and job losses due to coronavirus. A food giveaway sponsored by Island Doctors Tuesday in Palatka ran out of food after less than an hour. Other organizations continue to sponsor food giveaways. A reminder Feed the Need Backpack program in Palatka will be seeing extra demand as children head home for the holidays. Donations can be made at Bramlitt’s Plumbing on State Road 19 in Palatka.

A St. Johns County deputy is dead after what officials say was an untimely and unexpected medical episode. The Sheriff’s Office Tuesday made the announcement and posted they were working with the family of the unnamed deputy to provide a statement.

Palm Coast City Council is tabling until Jan. 19 a decision on a 150-foot cell tower slated for the grounds of the city-owned Palm Harbor Golf Club. Tuesday council members found the tower location had been moved several hundred feet but they couldn’t get a clear answer about the move from city staff or Diamond Communications, which handles the city’s cell tower network. In addition, some audience members threatened a lawsuit over the change. That led to the city’s mayor Milissa Holland handing over the gavel and making the motion delaying the move.

Christmas is coming to Melrose Saturday. After the Melrose Business and Community Association decided not to hold their annual Merry Melrose Christmas Parade this year, a group calling themselves the Melrose Patriots stepped up. They’ll be hosting a Bonnie Melrose Parade with the theme Peace and Love in the Four Corners. The festival kicks off at 4 p.m. in Heritage Park, the parade is at 6 p.m. and pictures with Santa will be at 7 in the park. Live Christmas begins at 4 p.m. and Mossman Hall will be open.

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