The Voice of the Gem City

News March 31, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Putnam County commissioners will hold a special county commission meeting Thursday morning in Palatka at 8 a.m. at the government complex on Crill Avenue dealing with cost overruns on road resurfacing for 25 roads in Putnam. Four vendors are scheduled to do the work but the total project cost of just under $2.3 million is about $100,000 over budget. County officials say there are two options – either fully fund the project by taking $94,818 from reserves or remove one or more roads from the project. Staff is recommending transferring funds from the Road and Drainage Contingency Fund. At 8:30 a.m. Putnam commissioners take part in a meeting with commissioners from Flagler and St. Johns counties to discuss areas of mutual concerns. Both meetings are open to the public.

If St. Johns County okays an additional penny bed tax, St. Augustine city commissioners want half of the funds to come to the city. As one commissioner put it: “People don’t come to St. Johns County. They come to the oldest city in the country.” County commissioners reportedly are looking at spending all the money for beach renourishment in the northern part of the county, an area where most of the beaches are private.

Developer Norm Jutras, who for years sought to turn the former Florida Furniture/Wilson Cypress property in Palatka into a massive housing development, has died. Jutras, 86, was a natural-born entrepreneur from Maine who developed several businesses through the years and was involved with developing in Maine and Florida.

A reminder government offices will be closed for Good Friday in St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties. If you have business to conduct, Thursday will be the last day this week to do it. Schools in Putnam and St. Johns counties are scheduled to be out on Good Friday also.

St. Johns County school officials are dealing with the fallout after 31 girls were notified of dress code violations Friday at Bartram Trail High School. Some students said they were told to unzip hoodies in front of school personnel in hallways. Turned out several were only wearing sports bras or tank tops, violations of the long-established dress code. District officials said usually violators would have been sent to an administrator’s office rather than the hallway to avoid embarrassment. Officials say rumors and discrepancies in stories have surfaced.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has a man in custody who apparently was involved in the Friday shooting of a woman near the Microtel in Palm Coast. Brenan Robert Hill, 32, told deputies someone pointed a gun at he and his girlfriend when they were at their car and he swatted the gun away. The gun discharged and a bullet hit the woman, who is in stable but critical condition. Hill told deputies he was wanted in Pennsylvania on a felony warrant. Because of probable cause, deputies got a warrant and searched his car finding drug-related paraphernalia. He’s being held on drug charges and for violation of his warrant. Detectives are continuing the investigation into the shooting.

Florida Department of Health in Putnam County Tuesday reported seven new coronavirus cases and one transfer into county. Total number of cases since counting began more than a year ago is 6,027 in Putnam. Flagler County reported 25 new cases for a total of 6,655. St. Johns County reported 50 new coronavirus cases for a total of 21,127.

A Clay County student again won the First Coast Spelling Bee, but not without a strong challenge from St. Johns and Putnam entries. Erik Williams from St. Johns County Day School won his third straight championship Friday after beating Manischa Wijayawardhana, a seventh grader from St. Johns. Putnam County’s Armand Kuykendall placed third, lasting 25 rounds. Winning word: abience. It’s a medical term meaning “a tendency to withdraw from a stimulus object or situation.” Not one of those words you hear in everyday conversation.

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