The Voice of the Gem City

LOCAL NEWS 6/15/2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

A man being held in Flagler County jail on an aggravated violence case in Pennsylvania is now charged with attempted second-degree murder in the shooting of his girlfriend in March near a Palm Coast motel. Brenan Robert Hill first told Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies the shooting happened during a robbery near Microtel, but authorities were suspicious and continued to investigate. Hill was jailed because of his fugitive from justice status and authorities have been monitoring his girlfriend’s status. She was shot in the head and in a coma but reportedly is beginning to respond although still requiring 24-hour-a-day care. Sheriff Rick Staly in announcing the arrest said Hill and the victim “had a volatile relationship that included unreported domestic violence. We know the suspect has a history of violence in his past relationships.”

Palatka City Commission is moving forward with the purchase of the gym at Robert Jenkins Middle School in Palatka although they are also eyeing acquiring the entire campus. After not holding their scheduled meeting last week, commissioners held a called meeting Monday at 4 p.m. to discuss buying the gym, which once was the Northside Neighborhood Facility. The school board recently voted to sell it to the city for $10. Then Commissioner Rufus Borum suggested pursuing buying the rest of Jenkins, located on Palatka’s Northside. Mayor Terrell Hill had a presentation ready showing different ways the school could be used by the city up to and including moving all city offices including City Hall to the campus. Jenkins is one of five schools the school district is closing this year in part of a re-organization scheme they say will make for better schools. Age of buildings was one reason cited although organizations including the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office are planning to use the vacant buildings at least temporarily. Hill said up to 13 grants may be available to repurpose the school and said it would be cheaper to refurbish buildings rather than construct new ones. Among the city offices that could go there – the public works facility including garbage trucks. The commission just gave the go-ahead to a $150,000 plus bid to draw up plans for the facility he was proposing putting up at the Putnam County Business Park.

Florida Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to stop on street parking on U.S. 1/Ponce de Leon Boulevard in St. Augustine despite a pushback from merchants and some homeowners. DOT is set to begin a $15 million improvement project this month on U.S. 1 from State Road 207 to the St. Augustine City Gates. Roadway paving and rehabilitation work is scheduled but also removing the parking and replacing that with bike paths. Opponents are citing safety issues on the fast-moving and crowded road. Business owners note the highway is their only parking and customers will end up parking on the side streets that are mostly residential. Questions also have arisen about beginning construction in the height of tourist season just as businesses are coming out of shutdowns caused by coronavirus.

Hot and humid weather continues in the three-county area. Heavy rainstorms Monday brought half-an-inch of rain at WPLK/WIYD studios in Palatka. Flagler County hunkered down under a flood warning in the late afternoon. Heavy rains in St Johns County had residents and tourists slogging through streets that quickly flooded. Rain chance today is estimated at 40 percent.

Ocean Walk at St. Augustine Beach is one of about 20 neighborhoods in Florida that will be getting help with flooding issues under the sea-level rise initiative funded by the state legislature. Erosion problems began several years ago along a drainage ditch. The City of St. Augustine Beach filled in the ditch and put in a drainage pipe for about $425,000 but the flooding problems continued. In part that may be because surrounding areas also are seeing more construction and more land being covered by housing and asphalt. Under the new initiative $694,000 is to be spent to study and fix the Ocean Walk flooding problem.

At Monday’s Community Redevelopment Agency meeting, the Porchside Fest that features musicians performing on porches of houses in the South Historic District got $24,185 for their event this year. Organizer and founder Vito Russo says the Fest now is a Class A event, a designation for the city’s top drawing events such as the Blue Crab Festival. CRA agreed to that funding but turned down his request that they buy a $99,000 property across from Hammock Hall and turn it into a park that could be used for festivals. The Southside Historic District would maintain the park, Russo said. CRA, which includes the city’s five commissioners, said no.

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