The Voice of the Gem City

February 17, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Major power issues continue in Texas and the Midwest as power suppliers who use natural gas and coal struggle to get enough of the energy sources to provide heat and electricity to people facing the once-in-a-lifetime storm. Their need for natural gas is hitting big users elsewhere including the Georgia-Pacific plant in Palatka, which says the extreme weather is “temporarily limiting the mill’s natural gas supply.” Natural gas is used to power some of the mill’s large equipment. In a statement released this morning, mill officials said: “We are adjusting our operations during the supply shortage to minimize the impact on the mill. While we remain flexible as the situation evolves, we continue to operate around the clock, and most of our assets remain online.”

Despite changes brought about by coronavirus, Ash Wednesday ceremonies are being held around the world. This is the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and penance for Christians that leads up to Easter, which is April 3 this year. Many churches hold ceremonies today where a symbolic cross of ashes is applied to foreheads. This year churches are getting innovative as they cope with coronavirus restrictions and concerns. At St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Palatka members this morning lined up in cars to take part in a drive thru ceremony where ashes were being applied using a Q-tip rather than the priest’s finger.

By a 3-2 vote Putnam County School Board Tuesday approved what’s being called a revitalization plan that will start with closing five schools at the end of this school year. E.H. Miller School, Jenkins Middle, Mellon Elementary and Miller Middle schools will all close. Melrose Elementary was spared following a strong campaign by parents and residents. However, C.L. Overturf Sixth Grade Center in Palatka is now set for closing as well. The revitalization plan calls for putting sixth graders back in elementary schools. Mellon is being repurposed with all Palatka-area pre-K students being sent there. Also going there will be all students with disabilities who currently go to E.H. Miller. Superintendent Rick Surrency says it’s part of the plan to right-size schools after a continuing drop in student numbers over the years. Overturf Center is being repurposed to provide offices for various school district personnel. A real estate broker is being hired to advise the district on potentially selling E.H. Miller. Members Sandra Gilyard and Bud McInnis voted against the 10-year plan that also calls for building nine new schools. Voting for the plan were members David Buckles, a former school superintendent, and Jane Crawford and Holly Pickens.

Florida Department of Health in Putnam County reported one coronavirus related death Tuesday. The death of the 76-year-old woman brings the death total since last March to 118 deaths. Also reported 12 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 5,731. Flagler County reported 23 new cases for 5,670 total. St. Johns County reported 42 new cases for a total of 19,610.

The massive winter storm gripping the country is being felt in Florida since trucks are having difficulty getting through to the state. Among shipments delayed are coronavirus vaccines. Some 200,000 Moderna vaccines set to arrive Tuesday are now expected to arrive in Florida Thursday. Florida Department of Health in Flagler County is expecting 1,300 first-time doses and private sector providers about 1,200 this week. Confirm your appointments before you go. Flagler has seen an uptick in deaths with 15 reported so far this month, to bring their total to 85 since counting began in March of last year.

Word is the popular Palatka eatery CP Deli & More on Crill Avenue has new owners. The Wilkinson Family reportedly has sold the operation to Bill and Theresa Sweat.

Former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos was known for her love of shoes. Apparently a crocodile at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park shares a similar taste for footwear – literally. The 10 foot 5 inch croc known as Anuket is back from UF Veterinary Hospitals after having a sneaker removed from her stomach. In December the sneaker fell off a customer on the Zip Line that runs over alligator and crocodile pits at the popular attraction. Anuket gobbled it up and has been regurgitating it since. A zoo medicine team eventually operated to provide easier access to the sleeping croc’s stomach and removed the sneaker. The 341-pound croc spent a night at the UF facility before being returned to the zoological park.

A scam is going on involving Clay Electric Cooperative. People are getting phone calls saying their power will be shut off in 30 minutes if they don’t pay a past due bill. You’re told to punch a button to another line to pay the bill. Clay Electric says it isn’t them and asks you call their number 352-473-8000 for information if you do get such a call.

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