The Voice of the Gem City

March 4, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Upgrading of 13 lift stations throughout St. Augustine is underway to help improve the wastewater collection system and problems from flooding and storm surge. City officials say the project will take an estimated five months and include stations throughout the city. Charlotte Street from King Street to Cathedral Plaza is closed for the duration of the project. Other stations are located throughout the city. In addition the city is constructing a new wastewater force main beneath Arricola Avenue between Arredando Avenue and Coquina Avenue. In all, the city’s wastewater collection system includes 94 lift stations and more than 60 miles of force mains.

Welaka Town Councilman Willie Washington has died. Washington, 82, had been released from Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine but was taken to Putnam Community Medical Center Wednesday where he died. He had served on the council since the late 1960s and the council room is named in his honor. Washington was a deputy from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office for a number of years before his retirement.

St. Johns River Water Management is offering people a chance to experience the St. Johns River without ever leaving home. A virtual tour along the 310 miles of the American Heritage River follows the river from its headwaters in Indian River County north to Mayport. The district’s online news magazine StreamLines offers the multimedia series with the first part of the voyage focusing on the district’s historic project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the river’s headwaters. Go to the sjrwmd.com/streamlines/ to begin the series.

Florida Department of Health in Flagler County reported 24 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases since March of last year to 6,033. Putnam County reported 10 new cases for a total of 5,868. St. Johns County reported 34 new cases for a total of 20,188.

A statewide pre-registration system for coronavirus vaccine appointments is now available. Go to myvaccine.fl.gov/. On the website select your county and put in contact information. Each county also is assigned a telephone number. In Putnam County the pre-registration line is 866-201-7193.

In St. Johns County the Interstate 95 rest area at Mile Marker 303 near the State Road 206 exit is temporarily closed tonight as work continues on resurfacing the rest area entrance and exit ramps. The site reopens Friday but work will continue for several weeks for additional improvements to include resurfacing of parking lots and the picnic area loop driveway as well as upgrades to drainage, sidewalks and lighting. This is part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s I-95 resurfacing project in St. Johns, which consists of milling and resurfacing of existing roadway from the Flagler County line to just south of State Road 207 and includes the interstate entry and exit ramps for SR 206 and U.S. 1. The $22.6 million project by Hubbard Construction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2021.

Although the Azalea Festival in Palatka has been canceled this weekend, several organizations have scheduled events. Palatka Art League offers the Azalea Spring Fling Saturday and Sunday at the Tilghman House at 324 River Street. Activities include an artisan gift boutique, plant sale and vintage room. Saturday hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday hours are noon-4 p.m. The Garden Club of Palatka holds an Open House at their building at Ravine Gardens State Park on Twigg Street Saturday. The open house is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s also a great chance to walk or drive through the park where the azaleas are blooming.

A St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputy sustained minor injuries Tuesday as she was redirecting traffic following a crash. Deputies had responded to an accident at the intersection of State Road 16 and Woodlawn Road. The crash left westbound lanes blocked on 16 and the deputy was redirecting traffic when she was struck by a vehicle, according to Florida Highway Patrol. She did not require hospitalization.

A legacy from the great-granddaughter of Florida’s first elected governor has come to the Putnam County Historical Society thanks to the generosity of the family of the late Lee and Joyce Conlee. The gift is a chair Gov. William D. Moseley used during his tenure in Tallahassee in the 1840s. Winifred Houghton Harrell inherited the chair along with a photograph of her great-grandfather. On her death, she left the chair to Joyce Conlee who became a surrogate daughter to her. Joyce, who was married to the late Palatka city commissioner Leon Conlee, died two years ago and her family followed her wishes and donated the chair to the Society. Liz Conlee Jones presented the chair Wednesday, which happened to be the 168th birthday of Florida becoming a state.

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