This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
A touch of fall in the air this morning in our area and definitely a touch this evening with the National Weather Service predicting 64 degrees tonight in the Putnam County area. Weather will be in the mid 80s during the day for the next couple of days with some wind and mostly clear.
A former St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputy was found not guilty Wednesday by a St. Johns County jury. Former deputy Anthony DeLeo was charged with aggravated battery and faced a maximum of 15 years in jail if convicted. In December last year Christopher Butler was pulled over on Interstate 95 while driving 15 mph. Several deputies as well as a Florida Highway Patrol trooper were at the scene where Butler, who was pulled over for driving under the influence, repeatedly refused orders and was described as “naked, sweaty and difficult to corral.” The FHP trooper used a taser on him. A video of part of the encounter showed DeLeo striking the man repeatedly with his baton. Questions were raised about the video, and the defense argued DeLeo used his baton in a way allowed by the Sheriff’s Office and did not intentionally try to hurt Butler. The Sheriff’s Office fired DeLeo. The Butler family is pursuing a civil case.
Palatka City Commission holds its second and final hearing for passing the city’s 2021-22 budget tonight at 6 p.m. The budget is going up but millage will stay the same. Also up for a vote tonight is an amended schedule of fees.
St. Johns County Commission has approved a budget of nearly $1.3 billion for the upcoming year, up any more than $241 million over last year. This year’s budget includes a 5 percent pay increase for employees. Earlier plans called for a 3. 8 percent increase but inflation and employee retention efforts led to calls for the higher amount. Millage is staying the same, but will bring in more money this year, something commissioners are looking at to help with infrastructure projects underway.
Coronavirus continued to do a number on Florida schools, this time in the form of grades for the 67 districts. Only a dozen districts submitted an opt-in request for the annual performance evaluation. St. Johns County was one of those, remaining a “A” district. Putnam County opted out of the grade. Last year the district had a “C” rating. Flagler County also opted out. Last year they were given an “A” rating. It’s been an upside down year for schools and the changes just keep coming. Gov. Ron DeSantis wants the Florida Legislature to do away with what’s become known as “The Test,” the basis for the annual district grades.
Two childcare centers in Flagler County have reported outbreaks of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Florida Department of Health in Flagler County says the illness generally is not serious, but the virus is highly contagious and common in children under 5. Fever and flu-like symptoms, mouth sores and rash may be experienced.
On Friday and Saturday in Palatka, the Putnam County Historical Society hosts the annual Occupation of Palatka 1864 at the Bronson-Mulholland House in the North Historic District. The event involves a number of re-enactors, both soldiers and civilians, who offer a slice of what life was like in the area during the Civil War. On Friday, hundreds of school children will walk through the open-air encampments and the Bronson-Mulholland House at 100 Madison Street. The event is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.