The Voice of the Gem City

News September 1, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

A break in the dry. National Weather Service is predicting 100 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the area today.

Personnel challenges continue to plague school districts. St. Johns County continues to face a shortage of substitute teachers. They have a hiring push on beginning this week and continuing through Tuesday. Pay is $15 an hour and preK through 12th grade substitutes are needed. While some of the district’s vacancies are due to more students and two new schools this year, other vacancies are because of COVID-19. About 50 district employees are currently quarantined because of the virus. The district has even pulled in six district employees with teacher certification to help with the shortage.  In Putnam County students and personnel on school buses began wearing masks today by order of the district. School district officials say they have more students riding buses and are now picking up those living within two miles of their schools. The district originally said they would not be picking up students within the two mile range this year. The district has been dealing with a shortage of bus drivers so that means fewer buses.

This morning a lock down was ordered at Palatka High School. School district officials say a student who apparently was skipping tried to get back in through a secured door. At first it appeared as if a stranger was attempting to enter. That led to the lock down which has been lifted. The student was found in a bathroom.

A dune restoration project north of Matanzas Inlet has archaeologist from the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program working to uncover and document a shipwreck form the 1800s. The restoration will dump tons of sand on the site of what’s thought to be the Caroline Eddy, a cargo ship built in Maine during the Civil War for the Union Army. She was headed to from Fernandina Beach to Philadelphia with a load of timber in 1880 when she ran into a hurricane and hit a sandbar off Matanzas. The beach wreckage was uncovered last year by a nor’easter and LAMP explored. Now they’re back, digging up the wreck which was once again covered by sand. Work will continue through next week after which dune restoration begins.

Former Flagler County resident Reilly Opelka is playing tennis at the U.S. Open this week. Now a professional tennis player, Opelka attended Indian Trails Middle School. The 7-foot Opelka won Tuesday Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea. One of Opelka’s serves registered at 141-miles-per-hour.

A paper machine fire at Georgia-Pacific in Palatka Tuesday morning was quickly contained, according to officials. The fire broke out at one of the tissue paper machines inside shortly before 9 a.m., according to GP spokesman Mark Brown. Firefighters from Putnam County, Palatka and East Palatka responded and one fireman was treated for heat exhaustion.

Opposition to proposals by Palatka’s Community Resources director to sell, give away and change agreements with non-profits housed in city buildings is growing. Several of the groups including Heart of Putnam, the Palatka Art League and the Putnam County Historical Society are scheduled to be at Thursday’s 6 p.m. Palatka City Commission meeting. The meeting was postponed from last week because of lack of a quorum. Department head Eddie Cutwright is seeking direction from the commission about selling the Tilghman House, which is maintained by the Art League, and Hammock Hall, both in the South Historic District. Other proposals include giving to Ravine Gardens State Park the city’s refurbished waterworks environmental center and the old pool house formerly used by Friends of the Ravines. Leases with several other groups including those running the Bronson-Mulholland House, Cooper Center, train deport and Larimer Arts Center also are on the list.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Thursday will honor Detention Deputy Paul Luciano, who died of COVID-19. A procession will drive from Volusia Memorial Gardens on Nova Road in Ormond Beach to Flagler Craig Palms Funeral Home in Palm Coast. Traffic delays are expected between noon and 12:45 p.m. Residents may line the travel route to pay respects, according to the Sheriff’s Office. On Friday at 9 a.m there will be a procession from the funeral home to First Baptist Church of Bunnell where services will be at 11 a.m.

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