The Voice of the Gem City

January 13, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Marcia Lane1:21 PM (1 minute ago)
to mlane1950, me

A proposal to close five Putnam County schools this year and spend millions of dollars on new schools throughout the district  is meeting with lots of questions from the public. The plan was introduced last Thursday at a school board workshop and parents were at Tuesday’s board meeting to protest. Slated for closing at the end of this school year are Melrose Elementary, E.H. Miller, Mellon Elementary, Jenkins Middle and Miller Middle schools. That’s the tip of the iceberg for the 10 year project that will require issuing bonds.

Bishop Felipe Estevez of the Diocese of St. Augustine is retiring in February, after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. He’ll submit his letter of resignation officially to Pope Francis on Feb.5. Estevez became the 10th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine in 2011.  The pope will decide who fills the position, so it could be empty for months.

St. Johns County is getting 500 additional coronavirus vaccines with plans to open up appointments to get the shots on Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m. So far the county has gotten 3,800 doses, according to St. Johns County Commission Chair Jeremiah Blocker. An estimated 65,000 residents meet current priority guidelines to receive the shots. St Johns State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson noted the vaccination process in Florida has just begun. “We have millions to go. Supply of vaccine doses remains the primary challenge for the state.” Flagler County is pushing to receive more vaccine, but health officials say they don’t know when to expect their next shipment.  Florida Department of Health in Putnam County says their testing site is closed today but will reopen Thursday and Friday.

Florida Department of Health in Flagler County reported 40 coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the total since March to 4,423. Putnam County reported 78 cases for a total of 4,641. St. Johns County reported 208 cases for a total of 15,700.

Flagler Beach commissioners will hold an abbreviated virtual meeting Thursday after coronavirus concerns were raised. The interim city  manager and a building department employee tested positive for coronavirus last week and some city officials who may have been exposed are still in quarantine. Only one item is on the agenda –reading of a proclamation declaring March 2 Election Day. A commission seat and the mayor’s seat will be on the ballot. No other formal action is set.

 Work on the Bardin Bridge off State Road 100 in Putnam County will get underway Jan. 18. The rehab project for the bridge over Etoniah Creek has been a priority for the county after weight bearing issues emerged in 2019 and school buses and heavy trucks were banned. New traffic patterns, lane closure and temporary traffic signals will be in place during the work scheduled to be completed by the fall. A Zoom meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday will give the public a look at plans and changes. Check at the county website for access.

A St. Johns County coach will be heading up the Palatka High School football program. Patrick Turner, former head football coach and current athletic director at Pedro Menendez High School, has accepted the new job at PHS.

A former Mississippi policeman is in jail in Flagler County after he was stopped for pulling a trailer reported stolen from Volusia County. Ettienne Joseph Mixon Jr., 35, was northbound on State Road 100 in Bunnell when the traffic stop was made by Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies and Bunnell Police. Also on hand Sheriff Rick Staly. Mixon was found to have a loaded firearm on his person, Found inside the vehicle a backpack with a large amount of counterfeit current in denominations ranging from $1 to $100, brass knuckles and two clown masks. Law enforcement equipment, a Mississippi State Police ID card and a Pearl River Sheriff’s Office key card were also found in the vehicle. Mississippi State Police said Mixon had been terminated as an officer. He’s in the Flagler jail on a $12,500 bail.

Amy Williams was a teacher in Putnam and St. Johns counties for some 30 years. Her death Jan. 6 at her home in Crescent Beach reduces those so-called “old school” elementary teachers who taught at the original Moseley Elementary School and First Baptist Church Kindergarten in Palatka. She later taught in St. Johns at Orange Street Elementary, Hastings Elementary and Hartley Elementary. Her two classroom rules: Be kind and take care of yourself and your things. She loved telling stories about her classroom days including one from Orange Street Elementary when her kindergartners were just learning to put their A B C’s together to make words such as D-O-G and C-A-T. One afternoon on the playground two of the five-year-olds got into an argument, which ended when one said to the other: “You can just kiss my A-C-E.”

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