The Voice of the Gem City

December 30, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Getting through to certain government offices in St. Augustine government will be a challenge today. A “carrier issue” is being blamed for outages hitting the Visitor Information Center, Historic Downtown Parking Facility, Water Treatment Plant and Fleet Maintenance, according to the city. For water treatment, try 904-293-3778 and for other calls use the City Hall number 904-825-1006. Windstream has begun extensive repair work and estimates restoration will be completed by late tomorrow night.

Flagler County courts won’t be holding in-person jury trails until at least Jan. 19. Coronavirus case increases are cited in the order by Chief Judge Raul Zambrano of the Seventh Judicial Circuit. Jury trials already are suspended in Putnam and St. Johns counties, which also are part of the circuit. Volusia is still allowed to hold jury trials. Most court proceedings in Flagler have been conducted using Zoom after an emergency shut down began in April and May.

Distribution of the first allotment of coronavirus vaccines is getting underway in area counties. Flagler County began giving out the vaccine Monday with health care providers top of the list. St. Johns County Tuesday started vaccinating frontline personnel, including emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefights. Next on the list healthcare personnel with direct patient contact, long-term care facility residents and staff and people 65 and older. Putnam County is still working out details, but is expected to follow a similar distribution procedure.

Florida Department of Health in Putnam County reported 42 new coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. Total since March is now at 3,859 cases. Flagler County also reported 42 cases, making their coronavirus total 3,610. St. Johns County posted 173 cases for a total of 12,660 to date.

A 40-year-old Putnam County man who was able to plead to lower charges to avoid facing trial for sexual battery eight years ago is now facing two counts of sexual battery.  Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Col. Joe Wells said a tip that Robert Chesko impregnated the same 15-year-old girl after avoiding the sexual battery charge 12 years ago led to a new investigation. The original case “had some challenges to it,” Wells said and a plea bargain led to Chesko pleading to “lewd and lascivious exhibition” and getting a sexual predator status.  He now faces two sexual battery charges and if convicted could face up to life in prison.

In Putnam County organizations supplying food are seeking volunteers to help distribute food and meals. Among those needing help are groups in Palatka, Crescent City, Interlachen and Melrose. Here’s a chance for families, students and civic clubs to help their community.

Putnam County Commissioners have approved more than a dozen paving projects throughout the county that will convert dirt roads to paved. At a meeting last week amended bid awards for more than $2.8 million were approved. With a $2.09 million bid Besch & Smith will work on King Fish Road, Bainbridge Road, Druid Street, Balsam Street, College Road, Blanchette Avenue, Marlowe Street, Indiana Avenue, Higgins Street, Hunter Road, Lakeview Trail and Twin Lakes Boulevard. Halifax Paving with a $475,802 award will pave Silver Beach Boulevard, Magnolia Street and Cypress Point. Art Walker Construction Inc. with a $288,595 bid will pave North Beech Street and Cinnamon Drive.         

A driver who rolled through a stop sign in Bunnell on Christmas is now in the Flagler County jail on a $612,000 bond on charges including aggravated assault and possession of a variety of drugs. Cornelius Murphy Sr., 40, was stopped in Bunnell by a deputy sheriff, who then noticed the smell of marijuana. Murphy denied having any narcotics and didn’t have a medical marijuana card. As the deputy ran Murphy’s information, a Bunnell police officer came on the scene asking the man to move his vehicle to prevent a traffic jam. Murphy complied but when it was determined his  truck tag had expired, he took off, nearly hitting the Bunnell officer.  The chase ended when Murphy stopped, jumped out of the truck and into a ditch where he appeared to be burying something. Heroin and marijuana were found in the truck. Recovered from the ditch were a Crown Royal bag containing 110.3 gram of crack cocaine, 101 grams of marijuana, 109 oxycodone pills, 172 grams of heroin and fentanyl and various other narcotic pills, according to the report.

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers is holding a community blood drive today at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka. Holidays are normally a time when blood supplies run low.

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