The Voice of the Gem City

LOCAL NEWS 8/25/2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
A full federal appeals court will hear a St. Johns County case regarding transgender use of school bathrooms. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday vacated a 2-1federal court ruling on July 14 that said a transgender student should have been allowed to use the boys bathrooms. The decision by the St. Johns County School Board to prevent Drew Adams from using the bathrooms was declared “arbitrary” and judges said it violated equal protection laws. The case was filed in 2017 after Nease High School required Adams either use a gender neutral bathroom or the girls’ bathroom. The school district sought the latest hearing.
The future of more than half-a-dozen city properties, many run by non-profits, is up for discussion and possibly a vote at Thursday’s Palatka City Commission meeting. The item has been labeled an emergency although the groups running the properties were not notified until Monday. The meeting is at 6 p.m. and social distancing will be in effect although people can also watch and speak via Zoom. At 3 p.m. the city will hold a special budget hearing, the third on the budget which goes into effect Oct. 1.
A Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputy turned in his resignation Tuesday. In early July Robert Lentino, 26, was suspended with pay by the Sheriff’s Office over allegations of domestic violence. Last week he was allowed to do work in the communications sector. 
The State Attorney’s Office has released new videos relating to the murder case against 14-year-old Aiden Fucci. He’s the St. Johns County teen charged with the first-degree murder of schoolmate Tristyn Bailey whose body was found on Mother’s Day. The footage is from surveillance video from the Durbin Crossing subdivision where the two families live plus Snapchat clips. Fucci is in the Duval County jail awaiting trial.
Beginning today St. Johns County school employees and visitors will be required to wear masks. School superintendent Tim Forson  announced the change at Tuesday’s school board meeting. More than 5,000 employees are affected for at least 30 days. The board is staying with allowing parents to make the decision on whether or not their children should wear masks. Some people are pushing for a special hearing to discuss making mask wearing for all mandatory.
A reminder if you’re using St. Johns Avenue in Palatka, expect some detours. FPL crews are putting in new poles and arms along the roadway. Now in its third week, the project currently means a detour between Husson Avenue and Fern Street.
Coronavirus continues to take its toll. One of the most recent losses is that of longtime Palatka attorney Bill Townsend. He died Aug. 19, just one week after his wife, Judy, died. The couple had been married 51 years. For a number of years he was board attorney for the Putnam County School Board. He was known for his savviness in land cases and for his willingness to take on the powerful. He and fellow attorney Mac McLeod once battled a Putnam judge over access to the courthouse, one of many times he took on cases where the odds weren’t in his favor but he won. We’ll miss his puckish sense of humor.

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