The Voice of the Gem City

LOCAL NEWS 6 23 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Tornado warnings from the National Weather Service Tuesday had residents in the three-county area paying close attention as heavy rains and winds swept through mid-afternoon. The already rainy day brought three inches of rain at WPLK/WIYD’s weather gauge in Palatka while our weather station in East Palatka reported an inch-and-three-quarters. Heavy rains were reported in parts of St. Johns and Flagler counties with Flagler Estates taking a heavy pounding. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are predicted today with chance of rain at 80 percent. The trend continues Thursday although some sun is expected.

After several years of effort, the new Veterans Affairs Clinic in St. Augustine opened Tuesday on State Road 207. The clinic first had to move after St. Johns County commissioners sold the building they were in on U.S. 1 to Lowe’s for a store site. They ended up eventually moving onto Southpark Boulevard at Flagler Hospital Work on the more permanent clinic began in 2019. It’s named for the first soldier from St. Johns County to die in the Vietnam War – Leo C. Chase Jr. His family still owns a longtime funeral home business on West King Street in St. Augustine. The clinic currently serves about 6,000 veterans a year with 30 to 50 new patients coming in each week as the area population grows, say officials.

Latest Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics show Flagler County is among those seeing a drop in crime. The FDLE 2020 annual Uniform Crime Report came out this week with Flagler seeing a 14.1 percent drop in total index crime compared to 2019. The total crime rate fell by 15.7 percent. Index crime includes murder, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, robbery and rape. Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly said the figures “show that our crime reduction strategies work,” and noted “criminals outside of our county are learning to not commit crimes here as they are quickly arrested.” Putnam County Sheriff’s Office also saw a 9.4 percent drop in index crimes from 2019 to 2020 and an overall drop in crime as well. News wasn’t as good for Palatka where the Police Department reported a 10.4 percent increase in index crimes. An increase of larcenies and motor vehicle thefts was noted.

Palatka City Commission will be looking at salaries for workers during Thursday’s commission meeting. They’ve changed the meeting time to 5 p.m. instead of 6 and say because a large audience is expected will be meeting at the Putnam County School Board board room, which is across the street from City Hall on North Second Street.

A federal judge Tuesday denied a suit to make the St. Johns County Commission publicly consider a Pride proclamation. What was formerly known as Gay Pride Month has been rebranded as Pride month and the proclamation was in support of the LGBTQAI community. Rook Ringer, the attorney for Sara Bloomberg, says the lawsuit will continue. Bloomberg, who is founder of a group providing resources to LGBTQAI youth, tried to get the commission to put the proclamation on the agenda but was turned down, she says, after being told the commission chairman said the issue was too “controversial” and “left-leaning”. The lawsuit alleges the commission violated freedom of speech and equal protection by not publically considering the proclamation. It also charges the commission violated the Sunshine Law because of a lack of record keeping regarding the request and decision. The lawsuit seeks to have its attorney fees and legal costs for the suit paid by the county.

Tonight St. Augustine Beach offers its latest Music & Art by the Sea event with The Committee playing pop and dance music from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight at the St. Johns County Pier. Food trucks will be on hand beginning at 4 p.m. and the work of a local artist is on exhibit at The Art Studio by Pier Park. The concert is free. Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band plays Friday at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. On Saturday a free Family Movie Night at Pomar Park at 1600 Masters Drive offers Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle at 8 p.m. In Palatka on Sunday Readers Repertory presents Live Shorts, staged reading of three one-act plays. The production takes place at Westminster Hall at First Presbyterian Church on South Second Street in Palatka at 2:30 p.m.

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