The Voice of the Gem City

News October 20, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Beautiful fall weather today. Tonight — look up. Not only do we have a Hunter’s Moon (big, round and bright), but a meteor shower from the Orionids is at its peak tonight into Thursday morning. Those meteors — which many of us know as shooting stars — are from space rocks left behind from Halley’s Comet. That’s the comet that returns to earth’s vicinity every 75 years. 

While the Putnam County School Board in general was enthusiastic about a presentation by Mayor Terrill Hill to buy and repurpose former Jenkins Middle School, the purchase is on hold after a 5-0 vote Tuesday. Further negotiations are expected with a proposal to come back to the school board. Hill had plenty of plans for the buildings and 37 acres of property on North 19th Street in Palatka, but he was only offering 27.8 percent of the value of the property. School Superintendent Rick Surrency said the price should be 90 percent based on advice from the board’s attorneys. That’s in order to both fund the district’s revitalization plan that will rebuild schools but also to ensure other properties to be sold by the district can go for higher than 27.8 percent. Surrency noted the district had already sold the Jenkins gym to the city for $10, in part as a recognition that Jenkins has served as a cornerstone to the community of Palatka’s northside. For Jenkins, the city is offering $600,000 and the city annex valued at $657,000 for a total of $1,257,000. Value of the property is $4,525,570. Many of Hill’s proposals to the board had to do with education opportunities and social services although he did say plans include moving most of the city functions including public works, police and city offices to the site. He’s also looking at turning 25 acres into affordable or low-cost housing. One counteroffer Surrency suggested was that the city could pay the $1.26 million offer and then make additional annual cash installments of about $282,000 for 10 years or $188,000 for 15 years.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is beginning a cold case unit, dedicating one detective to the project. Sheriff Rick Staly says with new technology justice may come for families who have waited years for solutions to cases. Master Deputy Andrew Cangialosi will be looking at nine unsolved homicide cases, some dating back to 1980, as well as six missing persons cases. In addition, he will investigate older sex offenses that haven’t passed the statute of limitations.

On Oct. 23 communities will be taking part in Crush the Crisis, an opioid take back program. HCA’s Putnam Community Medical Center will partner with local law enforcement to offer a take back event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Palatka facility. People can  learn about opioid addicting and bring in unused and expired prescription medications for proper disposal.

Palm Coast had no lack of applicants for the city manager post. By deadline Monday 91 candidates had applied, but the majority didn’t have needed experience. In part, say Palm Coast officials, that may be because the first listing didn’t specify the job was for a city manager only saying a manager was needed. That led to applicants including a dancer, a baker, a food worker and a military recruiter. Only 20 of the applicants had served as either city or county managers. Also applying was Jim Manfre, a lawyer and two-time sheriff of Flagler County.

Northeast Florida League of Cities has a new executive director and one familiar to Putnam County. Longtime Palatka City Clerk Betsy Jordan Driggers officially began the job the first of October. The League contacted her about taking the post. In 2020 Driggers was accused of racist comments including allegedly calling Mayor Terrill Hill a bully. Hill is black. Driggers is white. A number of people questioned her removal. Driggers will be among attendees at Thursday’s annual League of Cities dinner hosted by the city at the municipal Palatka Golf Course restaurant. For years, as city clerk, Driggers planned the event.

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