The Voice of the Gem City

News Aug. 18, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Andy Hall was a guy who loved sports, loved kids and loved writing about the two. The longtime sports editor of the Palatka Daily News died Tuesday following several years of health issues. He reportedly also was battling coronavirus. Before his retirement, Hall worked for the Daily News 29 years and at several other papers including the St. Augustine Record. His heart always belonged to Putnam, however, and that’s where he thrived. He was the kind of guy who loved helping others thrive. Not a bad legacy.

Schools opened in Putnam County Tuesday with some distinct changes after the district implemented a new strategic plan. The school board last school year gave the okay to a district plan that meant closing of several schools, merging of junior and senior high schools, funneling sixth graders back into elementary schools and consolidating pre-K programs in Palatka into one school. Officials cited fewer students and more empty classrooms as reasons behind the plan. For many Tuesday the immediate focus wasn’t on the changes to schools but concerns over coronavirus. Gov. Ron DeSantis has left decisions about masks up to parents rather than school officials statewide. Both Putnam and St. Johns school superintendents are urging caution and social distancing when possible with masks optional.

The woman who once headed up the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office finances headed off to jail Tuesday, sentenced to more than seven years after embezzling more than $750,000. Raye Brutnell was sentenced to a prison sentence followed by 10 years probation. She pled guilty back in May to two counts of grand theft. In addition she’ll have to repay about $783,000 to the Sheriff’s Office, its benevolence fund and Florida Sheriff’s Risk Management. Reportedly she could have gotten a lighter sentence had she paid back some of the money before the hearing but that did not happen. Brutnell earlier said she began her five years of embezzling because of money concerns including paying for her father’s nursing home and her car and mortgage payments. She was making about $100,000 a year at the time of her arrest.

A wreck on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County left four people with serious injuries Tuesday, according to Florida Highway Patrol. Multiple crashes occurred on the Interstate near Race Track Road beginning about 6:11 a.m. when a Georgia man trying to pass a car lost control of his pickup which rolled over and struck a guard rail. A Jacksonville man stopped to help and his truck was struck by another vehicle. The Jacksonville man was struck by a flying object from the crash. He was airlifted to the hospital as was another individual. Two others were taken by ambulance to area hospitals. Southbound traffic was tied up for about four hours.

In Putnam County a driver hauling logs was seriously injured Tuesday afternoon after he lost control of his tractor trailer while making a turn and the vehicle flipped, according to Florida Highway Patrol. The 39-year-old Chiefland driver was headed east on State Road 100 near County Road 315 in the Grandin area when the single-vehicle accident happened shortly after 3 p.m.

On Friday Florida Power and Light was busy restoring power in Palatka after a tree fell on South 12th Street. On Monday it was Clay Electric’s turn when several falling trees near Silver Lake Drive took out power for more than 1,500 residents. The power outage began Monday night and crews kept working into the early hours Tuesday to restore all power, according to Clay Electric reports.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office rescued an elderly man who wandered off from his residence in Palm Coast early Saturday morning. After alerting residents in the area of Coconut Court and beginning a hunt of the area, deputies were notified by neighbors the man was in their backyard on the edge of a salt-water canal. Deputies found the man exhausted and distressed hanging on to a chain-link fence and dangling over the water. He was described as extremely weak and unable to free himself unassisted. Sheriff Rick Staly said the community coming together probably saved the man’s life. He was returned to his home and the Sheriff’s Office reported it was following up with the family to go over services available to help prevent a similar incident in the future.

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