The Voice of the Gem City

LOCAL NEWS 8/6/2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Project S.W.I.N.G in St. Augustine will remain at the site next to Francis Field with residents and community members offering support to repair and reconstruct the very popular playground. Built in 1997 with community support, the park will keep its current configuration as much as possible, say city officials. An ad-hoc committee of people who were involved in the original project will coordinate fund-raising efforts. Heading the committee is City Commissioner John Valdez with members Mike Davis, Les Thomas, Philip McDaniel and Troy Blevins. Officials expect the playground to reopen in fall 2022, the 25th anniversary of the project. The toddler playground and swings should remain open during renovations.
Palatka’s Blue Crab Festival won’t take place Labor Day weekend or even this year. Palatka Young Professionals, who took over running the festival in 2019, held a small gathering earlier this year to get a feel for community support after coronavirus and afterward announced the Labor Day dates. For the first 25 plus years the festival, which was organized by community members, was always Memorial Day Weekend. Word is Palatka Young Professionals will try again next year.
With school reopening soon, a couple of groups in Palatka are offering backpack giveaways. Today from 9 a.m. to noon LifeSouth Community Blood Center on Crill Avenue holds its fifth annual Back to School Backpack Giveaway. The first 500 kids accompanied by an adult get a backpack full of school supplies. On Saturday Palatka Kiwanis host a drive-by giveaway of school supplies and backpacks for all grades at Staples on State Road 19 in Palatka from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Former Palatka City Commissioner Mary Lawson Brown and her committee are moving forward with plan for an art festival featuring works by senior artists on Sept. 11. Originally planned for the land around St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on St. Johns Avenue, the festival is now going to be at the riverfront. A celebration of Grandparents Day is planned also.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is looking for the public’s help to find a Jacksonville man who is the chief suspect in the theft of a Freightliner utility truck, valued at $250,000. The truck was stolen from the parking lot of Fairfield Inn on June 4 and a GPS in the vehicle led deputies to Old Kings Road and Matanzas Parkway. No truck, but the GPS and a laptop and various electrical components from the vehicle were found. Continued investigation led to identifying Eugenio Gonzalez-Merlo as a suspect. Gonzalez-Merlo has a criminal history in Duval County and was previously charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle and resisting officer without violence. If you have information on his whereabout call the Sheriff’s Office at 386-313-4911 or call CrimeStoppers.
People using the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine tonight from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday will face lane closures. Florida Department of Transportation says crews are performing routine maintenance on the bridge.
Palm Coast’s apartment shortage may be easing. Palm Coast City Council has approved rezoning of 14 acres on Old Kings Road just north of State Road 100 as part of a project to build a 240-unit gated apartment complex plus six townhouses. Ravenshill Holdings is developing the project, to be called Tribute. Flagler Beach commission recently approved a 240-acre apartment complex on Roberts Road.
Coronavirus concerns are canceling a scheduled free movie tonight on Palatka’s riverfront. Commissioner Just Campbell, who was overseeing the event, said: “I don’t believe that holding the event at this time would be setting the example expected of the City and of this Commissioner.” No word on when The Goofy Movie featuring Disney character Goofy will be rescheduled.
Father Ron Camares from St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Palatka will be speaking of his experiences in Iraq tonight at the St. Augustine Art Association at 7 p.m. It’s part of a special art exhibit by veterans at the Association called THEN & NOW: 50 years of Veteran Experience. Also going on tonight is First Friday Art Walk in St. Augustine from 5 to 9 p.m. Punk rock group Rise Against at St. Augustine Amphitheatre Saturday. On Sunday Renaissance Resort is the location of the St. Augustine Kids Expo from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

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