The Voice of the Gem City

Local News 12/17/2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Beginning Friday U.S. 17 traffic in Putnam County will begin using both north and southbound lanes on the new Dunn’s Creek Bridge in the San Mateo area, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Once the project is completed northbound 17 traffic will be shifted to the travel lanes of the existing bridge. Old San Mateo Road is being closed temporarily at U.S. 17 until the project is completed. A new 12-foot wide multi-use path on the east side of the road is part of the overall widening project.

At 6 p.m. tonight Crescent City area residents get to voice their opinions on a proposal to close the city’s police department and turn operations over to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. The meeting has been moved from City Hall to Miller Middle School Auditorium on Prospect Street because of expected interest and to provide social distancing. The police department was put on administrative leave by the new city manager after questions about training and certification were raised. Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating.

The Texas-based convenience store company Buc-ee’s is expecting to be opening in St. Johns County by February of next year and they’re looking for full-time employees to train. The location near World Golf Village has drawn some criticism since the company is putting in 120 gas pumps and a 52,600 square foot store in the area off Interstate 95. Buc-ee’s has been described as “Texas’ wonderland of convenience stores.”

An Interlachen student has reportedly tested positive for coronavirus, causing quarantine warnings for some students at Interlachen High School. This follows Putnam Academy of Arts and Sciences closing Tuesday after a couple of teachers and some students reportedly tested positive at the public charter school. The concerns come as schools in Putnam County prepare to go on Winter Break Friday. St. Johns County schools also are closing Friday, letting out an hour early. Flagler County schools continue through Monday.

One new coronavirus-related death has been reported in St. Johns County, bringing the death total there since counting began in March to 107. Department of Health in St. Johns County reported 154 new cases Wednesday, bringing the total for the year to 10,697. Flagler County reported 32 new cases bringing their total to 3,137. Putnam County reported 60 new cases for a total of 3,321 coronavirus cases.

Putnam Community Medical Center in Palatka is among hospitals scheduled to receive doses of the Moderna vaccine  from the state next week. Gov. Ron DeSantis in making the announcement Wednesday said federal approval is near and about a dozen facilities in northeast Florida including Shands will get the vaccine. He said because Moderna does not require ultra cold storage as the Pfizer vaccine does a number of hospitals are getting the vaccine.

St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office reported Deputy Colby Seckinger is the officer who died earlier this week “following an untimely and unexpected medical emergency.” Seckinger, a 16-year veteran of the agency, was well known as the human partner to both K-9’s Max and Drake. He spent many years as a K-9 hander and had received  numerous honors. He has served as a field training officers for new hired deputy sheriffs.

Ayers Associates also is looking for input on the St. Johns Avenue Reimaging placemaking project. Goal, according to Palatka officials, is a vibrant, pedestrian area. Today Chris Silewski, a landscape architect with Ayers, is at Azalea City Brewery on South Sixth Street from 1-7 p.m. for one-on-one meeting with people.

Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is looking for help to find Hunter Elliott Spence, 32, of Interlachen. In November Spence allegedly stole a Cub Cadet all terrain vehicle and then traded it for a vehicle. The Cub Cadet was recovered Dec. 10. A warrant is out on Spence for committing fraud with a title transfer, grand theft and dealing in stolen property. By contacting CrimeStoppers of NE Florida you’re eligible for a reward if leading to arrest.

Vulcan Materials Company is showing what a community business partner looks like. They’re contributed $30,000 to the Florahome Park and Heritage Association for restoration of the town’s historic Village Improvement Association clubhouse. Residents of the area have worked for several years to restore the club house so it can be a museum and a place for events such as concerts, lectures and community classes. Park President Meri-lin Piantanida said preservation of the building will create opportunities for a greater sense of community. In 2018 Vulcan, which has a quarry in Grandin, funded the children’t playground at the park and have sponsored

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