The Voice of the Gem City

News MARCH 22, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Longtime Welaka mayor Gordon Sands died Sunday less than two weeks after he spoke at funeral services for a fellow councilman and friend, Willie Washington. Sands, 85, surprised many when he withdrew from the Welaka mayor’s race in February, citing his age and health. During his nearly three decades in office, Sands was a strong leader of the small south Putnam County town. He was first elected as a councilman, then mayor. When he was defeated in 2007, he came roaring back to win re-election in 2009 and served in the post until Jamie Watts won the mayor’s post earlier this month.

The 71st annual Putnam County Fair is back and as popular as ever. Coronavirus cancelled the fair last year so people were enjoying the chance over the weekend to get out in the fresh air and enjoy rides, fair food and shows including sea lions, a hypnotist and beauty pageants. Today is a big one for kids showing steers and swine as weigh-ins get underway for the upcoming shows and sales later this week.

Palatka City Commission holds a special called meeting tonight at 5:30 p.m. as officials seek direction on a grant application for sanitary sewer linings. Deadlines are looming and a decision has to be made about submitting the application. Commissioners hold their regular meeting on Thursday.

St. Augustine City Commission tonight looks at possible needs that could be funded if a one-cent increase to the bed and breakfast tax goes into effect. The St. Johns County Commission is discussing an increase and asked the Tourist Development Council for their input. They, in turn, are asking local governing bodies for their spending recommendations. The commission in the past has asked the state to let counties use the tourism development tax revenues for costs such as sanitary sewer, drainage, transportation and pedestrian facilities.

Age to receive coronavirus vaccines is dropping again with those 50 and up as well as the medically fragile now eligible in Florida. It’s a move that means vaccination facilities including those in Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties should see an uptick in business. According to the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County, the total number of coronavirus cases since counting began last March is now at 6,434 with 107 new cases reported between Wednesday and Saturday. Putnam County reported 22 new cases during that period for a total of 5,966. St. Johns County reported 146 cases for the period, bringing their coronavirus case total to 20, 774.

St. Johns County does love museums and they may be getting a new one. The Anastasia Mosquito Control District has announced plans to build a 6,000-square-foot complex educate children and adults about mosquitoes, mosquito control and insect borne diseases. The facility would be at the district’s complex at 120 EOC Drive near the State Road 16 and Interstate 95 exchange. Expected to cost $3 million, the museum would be built by summer of 2022. Maybe. Some people are questioning the expenditure including the St. Johns County Commission, although they have no control over the independent taxing district. Reminds some of an effort about 10 years ago by the district to buy a helicopter.

A traffic stop for speeding on State Road 100 East in Flagler County led to a drug arrest for cocaine and fentanyl trafficking. After Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputies stopped Sarah Cisneros, 33, they noticed the odor of marijuana coming from the car. She told them she had a medical marijuana card, but no marijuana inside the vehicle. When it turned out she didn’t have a card, a probable cause search of the vehicle led to the discovery of 56.3 grams of Fentanyl, 54 grams of cocaine and 8.7 grams of marijuana. The drugs were found in a small brown box containing plastic and metal Easter eggs. Cisneros said she’d seen the box in the car but didn’t know what it contained. She was arrested on several charges and bond set at $62,000.

St. Johns County Fire Rescue and the Sheriff’s Office often respond to calls for help from humans. Over the weekend they were helping out animals. The first rescue came after a dog owner found his visually impaired and deaf dog had gotten out of the house and was stuck in a drainage pipe. It took about two hours to get the frightened animal out and back with his human family. On Sunday Fire Rescue responded to a stranded duckling in a storm drain. The duckling was rescued and reunited with its mother and siblings.

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