The Voice of the Gem City

News April 28, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

St. Johns Ship Building in Putnam County is getting a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Newly-elected U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack announced the grant would allow the company to expand its drydock capacity for commercial transportation on the St. Johns River. The grant is part of the Fiscal Year 2021 MARAD Small Shipyard Grants. Cammack said the funds will allow the company to expand and attract new employees and build upon North Central Florida’s reputation as a leader in coastal commerce. Owner Steve Ganoe says the grant will let them to expand their capacity.

A Bunnell man in Volusia County jail was transferred Tuesday to Flagler County jail on four charges and $110,000 bond after a shooting incident April 17 in Bunnell. Gaines L. Smith Jr., 23, was on probation when he allegedly threatened and fired a gun at two women in Bunnell. One witness reported Smith was “talking trash” with others before pulling a rifle up and out of his trousers. Smith and the 43-year-old woman made eye contact and that’s when she says Smith began firing at her. Four other men reportedly were firing weapons. Smith is facing two charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one of discharging a firearm in public and a probation violation tied to a felony drug charge.

A 52-year-old St. Augustine woman is in critical condition after an accident early Tuesday morning on State Road 207 in Putnam County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. FHP reports a 44-year-old Jacksonville man, driving at a much higher speed, struck the rear of St. Augustine woman’s car as the two were southbound. The woman’s car went off the road and into a tree.

Even as the state is concerned over dropping rates of coronavirus vaccinations, St. Johns County government plans to allow its declaration of a local state of emergency expire on May 4. In addition St. Johns County government officials are easing requirements about wearing masks in government facilities and closing down their vaccination efforts including the program at Solomon Calhoun Community Center. Final day to receive the first vaccination is today although second doses of Moderna will be available for several weeks. The county says vaccinations are available through private entities. About 39 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

A proposal by a Flagler County commissioner to end mask requirements and bring back events has Florida Department of Health officials in Flagler County urging caution. In a Facebook post Commissioner Joe Mullins originally said the county had reached herd immunity and it was time to reopen events. He later changed the post to say they were nearing. Health officials note herd immunity occurs when about 80 percent of a population has either had a disease or been immunized. Flagler County has vaccinated about 44 percent of the population.

In Putnam County Florida Department of Health reports coronavirus testing is being done on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Open Moderna vaccinations are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. only. Testing and vaccinations are at 1101 Husson Ave. in Palatka.

Florida Department of Health in Flagler County reported 13 new coronavirus cases Tuesday for a total of 7,161. The state dashboard site showed several deaths had been removed from Flagler’s official count, which is now at 109 dead since counting began March a year ago. Putnam County reported one new coronavirus related death bringing the total to 144. In addition 11 new cases were reported for a total of 6,395. St. Johns County reported 40 new cases for a total of 22,294.

A Volusia County principal has been chosen out of 38 candidates to head up Flagler Palm Coast High School. Greg Schwartz, currently principal at South Daytona Elementary School, was named Tuesday. His sons attend Flagler Palm Coast. Schwartz replaces Tom Russell, who died in December of COVID-19.

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