The Voice of the Gem City

LOCAL NEWS 3/30/2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

County commissioners from Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties hold a special called tri-county meeting Thursday to talk about areas of mutual interest. Proposed topics include economic development and infrastructure, workforce housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, veteran suicide prevention, broadband, efforts to assist the homeless, joint planning agreements, roadways, farming and coastal erosion. Public comment will be allowed at the meeting that begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Putnam Government Complex on Crill Avenue.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the culprit or culprits who called in three false “emergencies” on Sunday. Those are known as “SWATTING” calls and are illegal, dangerous and carry serious consequences, says Sheriff Rick Staly. SWATTING is defined as a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service into sending law enforcement to another address. The calls were all made from the same “spoofed” numbers. Sometimes the calls are in retaliation and sometimes completely random, according to officials, but they do tie up emergency service personnel.

In St. Johns County a group of parents wants the school board to look at bussing students rather than have them walk to school. The move comes after a rollover crash at the intersection of St. Johns Parkway North and 9B Monday morning. The crash happened near Liberty Pines Academy in the fast-growing northern part of the county. Districts aren’t required to bus children who live within two miles of a school. Superintendent Tim Forson has written the St. Johns County commission, Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Transportation asking for a review the walkway for hazards.

A former Palm Coast gang leader once called “the OG—the original gangster” may get another chance to contest his sentence of life in prison for murder and racketeering. Brandon Washington went to trial in 2011 for his part in a home invasion in 2007 that ended when one of the gang was killed by a Palm Coast homeowner. Under the law, the assailants were charged with murder since the death occurred during commission of a crime. Washington appealed on three items including that his attorney did not present evidence of a witness who could have provided an alibi. The Fifth District Court of Appeal Friday ruled in his favor although some believe a re-trial at the local level isn’t likely.

A group of Crescent City residents put out with the city commission say they have successfully passed the first round of signature verification in an effort to recall City Commissioner Judith West. West was one of the commissioners who voted in favor of ending the police department. On Facebook Monday, one man proposed putting the city commission on administrative leave and letting the Rotary Club take over. Bill Barber, who got several positive replies, later posted he was “serious” and pointed to how the club had given the town a reboot by coming up with the annual Catfish Festival and sponsoring hundreds of scholarships with the proceeds. Rotary oversees Catfish and almost everyone in the South Putnam town lends a hand to make it happen. The festival was again cancelled this year due to coronavirus, but a fund-raiser dinner is planned to keep the scholarship program on track.

Monday was the National Vietnam War Veterans Day and organizations across the tri-county area held ceremonies. St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick was on hand for the ceremony at St. Augustine National Cemetery. With him were 12 members of the agency who served in Vietnam.

Putnam County School Superintendent Rick Surrency is among those attending a national school superintendents’ conference in San Antonio. He, along with district STEM specialist Mike Helms and Dr. Kathleen Schofield from the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub, presented a program focusing on STEM and Artificial Intelligence opportunities for Putnam County students.

The Turtle Trail in Flagler County continues to grow. On Monday the Palm Coast arts Foundation unveiled “Journey”, a Florida Highwaymen-inspired turtle, at the Flagler Government Services Building. The Florida Highwaymen were a group of black painters who often sold their Florida-themed paintings from roadsides throughout the state during the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. The next painted turtle sculpture will be unveiled April 6 at the Flagler County Library.

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