The Voice of the Gem City

News January 14, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Palatka City Commission got a round of applause Thursday from their audience after they listened to Palatka residents and voted down a resolution to declare the entire city a Brownfield Area. Brownfields are environmentally impacted properties such as old industrial sites but the declaration would have applied to all property in the city including residential. Proponents said it would streamline the application process and provide environmental rehabilitation and economic development. The item was near the end of a lengthy agenda but people hung in to have their say. Only the developer of a proposed development at the former Florida Furniture and Wilson Cypress company on River Street spoke in favor. The other speakers were against the proposal, noting both concerns about what it would do to property values and what it would do to the city’s image. Putnam Property Appraiser Tim Parker, who lives in the city, brought up several concerns and refuted some of the information presented by an Ayres & Associates representative overseeing the proposal. That included noting while 537 areas in the state are declared brownfields only a “very, very few” included large areas and the majority are site specific. Former commissioner Allegra Kitchens noted the resolution contradicted itself and exhibits that were supposed to be in the packet weren’t. Property owner Eddie Granger questioned what was driving the proposal and said it was his understanding that brownfield declarations made getting loans from banks difficult. Several speakers brought up what the brownfield designation would do to the image of the city. “It makes us look like a dump,” said one speaker. Commissioners were listening voting 4-0 against the motion. 

A shooting in Bunnell Wednesday and talk of retribution has Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly warning people violence won’t be tolerated. The Sheriff’s Office was asked to lead the investigation by the acting Bunnell Police chief. On Wednesday Noah Smith,16, was shot during an altercation on South Anderson Street. The Flagler Palm Coast High School student died at the hospital. Witnesses say several people were firing guns around 10 p.m. and about 20 shots were heard. One struck Smith in the abdomen. In a Facebook Live broadcast Thursday, Staly said retaliation had been threatened. “While we share your anger and frustration, … bloodshed will not bring Noah back.” He asked for the public’s help in the investigation. 

Negotiations by Palatka officials to buy the now-closed Jenkins Middle School on the city’s northside may continue but from now on talks will be in public, Mayor Terrell Hill told Putnam School District officials and commissioners Thursday night. In part, he said, it was to protect commissioners, three of whom work for the school district, from any hint of impropriety. School Board member David Buckles was at the meeting to say negotiations should continue and point to the long record of cooperation between the district and the county’s municipalities. In effect he was asking Hill to come back to the negotiation table. Hill noted no other bids for the property have been received and asked why the city should bid against itself.  Last year the school board rejected a proposal by Hill to buy the school and 39 acres of property for $600,000 and the city hall annex. The property is valued at $4.5 million and the district said their attorneys advised the sale needed to be for at least 90 percent of the property value. Hill, who was given approval by the commissionto negotiate, noted the district now wanted 14 acres of city airport property in addition to the previous bid. That, he said, would interfere with the master plan for the airport. Some commissioners are put out because they apparently did not know about the continuing negotiations and only found out because of a letter from the school board.

Putnam County schools are closed today for an in-service training day for teachers. Schools throughout the state along with government offices at all levels will be closed Monday for M.L.King Jr. day. A parade and activities at the Palatka riverfront to honor the slain civil rights leader are planned for Monday. In St. Augustine an annual event includes a commemorative breakfast and a silent a march from MLK Avenue to the Plaza de la Constitucion.

Enjoy live music and find out about the history of Palatka’s community bands during the Putnam County Historical Society’s Saturday meeting at the Bronson-Mulholland House, 100 Madison St., Palatka. The Putnam County Community Band, made up of local musicians, will play during a program beginning at 11 a.m. Outdoor seating is available or you can view the program on Zoom.

Also Saturday the Palatka Art League holds a sale including one-of-a-kind original art works plus Christmas items at the Tilghman House, 324 River St.  Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

St. Johns River State College holds a Viking Run Saturday at Rodman Plantation. Categories include a 10K run, 5K run and fun run.

And a happy birthday to Rose Ponder of St. Augustine and Putnam School Superintendent Rick Surrency.

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