The Voice of the Gem City

News December 1, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

American Cruise Lines is back on the water and once again including Palatka in this year’s itinerary. One of their boats — the four-deck American Star — spent Tuesday night docked in Palatka as part of the eight-day Great Rivers of Florida Cruise that includes stops in Amelia Island, St. Augustine and Palatka. Among Palatka places they were visiting, the Bronson-Mulholland House. If you missed them, they’ll be back through twice more this month.

Palatka citizens got their say about what’s important to them and the city’s future Tuesday night at a planning seminar hosted by the city and Northeast Florida Regional Council at Ravine Gardens State Park. A lot of familiar faces, but not always ones you see together made for an interesting meeting as about 40 people shared their opinions on infrastructure, small business and quality of life, the three areas of focus. Palatka city commissioners reportedly will be using the information in putting together their next five year plan. Officials said they were pleasantly surprised at the turnout especially since it was being held right after the Thanksgiving holidays and on a Tuesday. The Regional Council will meet with the commission in January to give them a summary of issues raised. After that work begins on coming up with a plan for commissioners to consider in May. If you’d like to provide input, go to

A St. Augustine woman was sentenced Tuesday to a 15-year prison sentence after a jury found her guilty of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in a 2019 crash, according to the State Attorney’s Office. The sentence came on Grace King’s 57th birthday. According to Florida Highway Patrol, King was driving impaired and speeding without her headlights going 89 mph in a 60 mph zone on Feb. 4, 2019 when her SUV crashed into a pickup driven by Desmond Oesterreicher. Oesterricher, 57, of St. Augustine, died at the scene of the wreck at U.S. 1 and Stokes Landing Road. King was seriously injured. About four months later she was charged with DUI at Town Center Parkway in Jacksonville and admitted to drinking and using Xanax, according to police.

State fire marshals are investigating a double-wide mobile home fire in St. Johns County that left one person dead. A St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputy spotted smoke as he was going over Palm Valley Bridge Tuesday morning and called dispatch. Firefighters responded at 7:20 a.m. to the residence on Clatter Bridge Road. Deputies were told an individual was living in the mobile home and the body was found during a search. Name of the victim has not been released. St. Johns County Fire Marshal and Florida State Fire Marshal are investigating.

Palm Coast city council was set to award a new five-year contract for garbage hauling but following a protest will be putting the contract back out for bid. Current haulers — Waste Pro — made the protest after the city filed a notice of intent to select FCC Environmental Services, a company originally based in Spain with American operations in Texas. Waste Pro, which has held the contract since 2007, filed a protest leading to the new bid. The current contract runs out May 1. FCC Environmental and Waste Pro were the only companies that responded to the original proposal, and FCC was the higher bidder. Both bids were higher than current costs, due in part to fuel and labor expenses.

This weekend is shaping up to be a busy one in Putnam County as events return after a year’s hiatus due to coronavirus. Not taking off last year and back this year is the Interlachen Christmas Celebration. A Heartfelt Christmas  is 4:30-7 p.m. and includes a lighted Christmas parade, putt-putt golf, train rides and cookies from the Interlachen High School culinary parade, according to Larry Harvey who heads up the event. Parade Grand Marshal is David Yonts. Also coming up this weekend — Crescent City’s Christmas in the Park, Palatka’s South Historic District Porch Fest Saturday, Christ Independent Methodist Church’s annual Christmas cantata Saturday and Sunday and Pomona Park’s city-wide yard sale.

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