The Voice of the Gem City

March 3, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Some Palatka residents are experiencing telephone troubles. The problem now extends to Putnam County government, which Tuesday sent out a notice that technical difficulties mean not all calls are getting through. “Our service provider is in the process of making needed changes,” said the county’s Jim Troiano. Reportedly problems have been experienced in various locations around the city particularly on the south side for more than a month. One ATT workman said a main line had been cut and new replacement wire has been ordered. The county says if you’re unable to make a call to one of the government extension, call the main recording line at 386-329-0200.

Putnam County School Board Tuesday began the process to fund nine new schools as part of the district’s plan to right size schools. Members voted unanimously to begin a bond referendum process for up to $300 million to pay for the schools. That’s in addition to money they are hoping to receive from state and federal sources. This is the first step in the process. Voters will get their say in November 2022, says District Superintendent Rick Surrency. If voters approve, those paying taxes will see their bills go up for at least 10 years.

Elections in Flagler and Putnam counties saw changes to leadership. Jamie Watts won the mayor’s post in Welaka defeating Pam Olson by 229 to 82. Longtime mayor Gordon Sands withdrew from the race Feb. 11. Watts, who has been on the council for 11 years, is the son of a former county commissioner, the late Bill Watts. Two other commission seats on the Welaka Council were filled with Tonya F. Long and incumbent Marianne Milledge the top two vote-getters out of three. In Flagler Beach another “legacy” won the mayor’s post. Suzy Johnston won her first run for election. Johnston is the daughter of Flagler County Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston. She replaces Linda Provencher, who decided not to seek re-election. Winning re-election was city commissioner Eric Cooley.

As road widening of State Road 20 continues between Alachua and Putnam counties, Royal Way will be temporarily closed. Widening improvements from the Putnam County line to SW 56th Avenue are underway and the closure is necessary to safely complete roadway reconstruction work, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Drivers will detour via Lake Galilee Drive and Main Street. Anderson Columbia Co. Inc. estimates completion of the $49 million improvement project will be in late 2022, depending on the weather and schedules.

Florida Department of Health in Putnam County reported 15 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday for a total of 5,858 since counting began in March of last year. Flagler County reported 37 new cases for a total of 6,008. St. Johns County reported 20,154 for a total of 49 cases.

Flags in Florida at state and local government buildings are at half-staff today in honor of those who have died from coronavirus. Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the flags be at half-staff from sunrise to sunset. As of Tuesday, 31,135 Florida residents and 561 non-residents have died because of coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The state of Florida marks its 168th birthday today and Putnam County can claim a bit of the honor. The first elected governor of the state, William D. Moseley, moved to Palatka when he retired, and Judge Isaac Bronson, who also moved to Palatka, was head of the committee on territories for the 25th Congress where the statehood proposal began. Bronson, who was a representative for New York, only served one term in Congress, but ended up as a federal judge in Florida. He and his wife Sophronia built the Bronson-Mulholland House in Palatka beginning in 1853. The house on Madison Street is open for tours from 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and this weekend will have special re-enactors.

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