The Voice of the Gem City

News April 8, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

A veteran Putnam County Sheriff’s Office corrections officer died this morning in a crash at State Road 100 and U.S. 17 in San Mateo. Lt. Mark Elam was on his way to work on his motorcycle when the accident occurred, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Florida Highway Patrol is working the wreck that happened about 6:45 a.m. The accident was near Browning-Pearce Elementary School. Traffic was tied up for several hours and the Putnam County School District sent out a bulletin to let parents know buses were running 45 minutes late. Elam was taken to a local hospital, and later in the morning an honor guard escorted his body to the District 23 Medical Examiner’s Office in St. Augustine. Elam’s shift was put on leave and another shift called in, said Allison Waters-Merritt with the Sheriff’s Office. Elam was married with children.

Putnam County authorities are looking at possible charges after a man shot in the back Tuesday night died. The man, whose name had not been released, was driving in Crescent City around 10 p.m. Tuesday when a passenger in the back seat reportedly found a gun and began playing with it. Witnesses in the car said the shooter unloaded the magazine, but didn’t check the chamber.  He fired the gun and struck the driver, whose foot hit the gas. The front seat passenger pulled the brake and stopped the car. Deputies were called and a person in the car started driving toward the hospital in Palatka. Deputies stopped the vehicle and the victim was flow to a trauma hospital due to his injuries. As the vehicle approached Palatka, officers with the Palatka Police Department came to assist stopping the vehicle and one of their officers was involve in a motor vehicle crash. He had minor injuries, according to authorities.

Palatka City Commission holds a special called workshop today at 5 p.m. at City Hall. Discussion of goals of the commission and prioritization of projects and goals are on the agenda. Presentation of projects by the fire, police, finance, public works, municipal airport and community affairs departments are scheduled. The meeting can be viewed at You Tube Live and some seats may be available at City Hall where coronavirus protocols are in place.

Flags in St. Augustine will be flying at half staff in honor of former mayor and commissioner George Gardner who died April 6.  Current Mayor Tracy Upchurch speaking of  Gardner’s impact on the city talked about how Gardner “connected” the city, in part with his newsletter The St. Augustine Report. Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Sally Gardner.

Palatka City Commission approved the one-year plan for the Palatka Housing Authority as an emergency item at a special commission meeting Wednesday night. Two weeks ago Dr. Anthony Woods, head of PHA, presented a plan but couldn’t get approval from the commission. This time he signed an affidavit that no new public housing would be built during the year, clearing up one of the concerns raised in the past.

Downtown Palatka continues to open up with the Palatka City Commission on Wednesday giving the nod to several events. Wolfson Children’s Hospital annual fishing tournament got the okay from commissioners with the understanding that coronavirus safety guidelines will be in place. The event is expected to bring in several hundred fishermen plus volunteers and viewers. Fewer vendors and no door prizes are being offered this year. The very popular drawing for a bass boat will take place a week later online. Second event okayed was a Memorial Parade put on by American Legion Bert Hodge Post No. 45, which will be allowed on Memorial Day, May 31. Participants must wear masks and people watching will be urged to social distance and wear masks. No candy will be thrown. Organizers say the last parade drew about 400.

Biggest event lined up is the Palatka Young Professional’s Wine Mixer on May 29. Organizers estimated anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 might attend. Despite the name they’re planning on a beer tent, live musicians, food vendors and a farmers’ market in addition to wine. They’ll be using several blocks in the downtown area including the riverfront. A couple of years ago PYP took over running of the Blue Crab Festival and some see the Wine Mixer as being a mini-version of the festival. Some commissioners questioned how social distancing would be possible especially with alcohol involved. By a 4-1 vote the commission okayed going forward with the event, but organizers must come back with final plans.

Recycling in Flagler Beach basically is coming to an end. Residents got a two-day notice that the city would no longer be picking up glass, plastic, metals, paper, magazines or newspapers as of Wednesday. Only aluminum and some types of corrugated cardboard will be picked up. Plastic is no longer being recycled as it once was, especially in China, which was the U.S.’s largest market. That’s led to higher costs as well. Palm Coast says it still plans to provide recycling. Their contract with WastePro is coming up for rebid, but indications are recycling will remain part of their plan.

Don’t forget St. Johns County students will be out of school Friday. It’s a planning day for teachers.

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