The Voice of the Gem City

January 12, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

A strategic plan for the Putnam County School District is on today’s agenda school board agenda at 3:30 p.m. You can listen online to the meeting. Putnam residents will be paying attention. Last week at a workshop Superintendent Rick Surrency unveiled plans to close five schools at the end of this school year plus consolidate and eventually build new schools throughout the county, all within a 10-year period. Melrose Elementary School parents have let Surrency know how they feel – not pleased. Other parents and residents also are seeking more information and raising questions regarding the plans and costs.

In Flagler County Monday, county commissioners heard some residents call for the resignation of Commissioner Joe Mullins. They didn’t like the fact he had sponsored and taken part in the recent Trump rally in Washington. Commissioners didn’t take action although one called for a retreat where commissioners could discuss procedures and expectations. That went nowhere. In the past year, three attempts have been made to censure or discipline Mullins for his remarks or behavior.

Now that the country has vaccines to fight coronavirus, Florida residents are pushing to get in line. About 444,000 doses have been given out so far in the state, with more vaccine expected although when isn’t certain. After Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County announced Monday it would not be getting any new vaccine this week, people were upset. So far about 4,800 there have been vaccinated. In Putnam County approximately 1,300 have been vaccinated with more vaccine expected. So far more than 9,000 have registered in Putnam. Mary Garcia, FDH administrator in Putnam County reminded people if they have registered they should wait for their appointment call and not register again. Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties are all working with their county governments to make vaccinations run more smoothly. Work load has increased and in Putnam, the coronavirus testing site will be closed Wednesday.

While coronavirus numbers have been on the rise following Christmas holidays, St. Johns County saw something of a leveling off Monday as the Florida Department of Health in St. Johns reported 164 cases after a week of climbing numbers. Last Tuesday the count as at 301. Total number of coronavirus cases is now 15,492. Death count went up to129. In Putnam County 14 cases were reported Monday with one transfer out of county. Total number of cases since counting began in March is 4,562. Flagler County reported 42 cases, bringing their total to 4,384. Flagler reported one new coronavirus related death, bringing the total to 52.

A public information meeting on the Bardin Bridge Project is set for Thursday at 5 p.m. Putnam County Commission is holding the meeting via Zoom, and public participation is encouraged. Bardin Bridge on County Road 309D off State Road 100 had to be closed to school buses and heavy trucks because of concerns over weight stability. The issue has been ongoing since 2019 and officials made it a priority for repair including going out for bids to replace the bridge that crosses Etoniah Creek.

Coronavirus concerns have led to the cancellation of annual parade and ceremonies for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18 in Palatka. However, the national holiday will still mean closings of government offices, postal service and schools in Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler counties. In Palatka residential garbage pickup is also affected with no service on Monday but moved to Tuesday. Residential trash pickup will not take place Wednesday.

Right whales are doing something right – the sixth and seventh calves of the season have been spotted off the Northeast Florida coast, according to the Marineland Right Whale Project. On Friday a right whale known as Minus One was spotted with her new calf off South Ponte Vedra Beach. On Saturday, right whale Binary and her calf were seen off Amelia Island. The right whales migrate south each year turning the coasts of Florida and Georgia into their birthing waters. It’s about a 1,000 mile trip for the endangered species.

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