The Voice of the Gem City

News January 21, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies spent Thursday serving arrest warrants and hauling 20 alleged drug dealers to jail after a 14-month drug investigation. A couple of the alleged dealers were already in jail on other charges, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies continued the search for four other suspects in Operation Winter Wonder Cells. Yes, that’s C-E-L-L-S. Still sought: Xavier McCall, Lomack Bennett, Erik Zimmerman and a fourth individual whose name has not been released. More than $277,000 in drugs including fentanyl, cocaine and marijuana have been seized as part of the investigation. 

A fire Tuesday that destroyed a Palatka city garbage truck has staff scrambling to replace the commercial front-end loader, one of only two in their fleet. A special Palatka City Commission meeting was held this morning in order to OK the purchase and amend the budget. The truck was one of the city vehicles running on compressed natural gas and hissing sounds were reported when the truck caught fire off Reid Street. The fire was put out and no one injured. City staff said the truck was scheduled for replacement next year and the city was putting money in a reserve fund of $350,000 to cover the cost. A demo model for $270,000 has been found and city staff proposed buying that one. Plans for next year call for replacing the city’s other commercial loader although actual purchase will be another year down the road.

Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a hit-and-run crash this morning in the Palatka area. The crash around 8 a.m. was at 893 North State Road 19 and Phillips Dairy Road.

Gray skies today and rain are likely during the evening and into Saturday. Temperatures will be dropping in the three-county area. In Palatka temperatures are expected to drop to 44 tonight, 35 Saturday night and 33 Sunday night. Highs will be in the 50s and low 60s.

Arbor Day celebrations are going on today and Saturday in the three-county area. St. Augustine Garden Club was giving away trees today and tree-planing ceremonies are happening in Palatka at St. Johns River Stay College and in Interlachen. On Saturday Welaka holds a tree ceremony at 2 p.m. at Jefferson Smith Park. Crescent City was holding a ceremony Saturday but has rescheduled for Feb. 5.

You can spend the weekend at the movies as the 13th annual St. Augustine Film Festival gets under way today. Movies are being shown at the Alcazar Room at City Hall, Lewis Auditorium and Gamache-Koger Theatre on the Flagler College campus in St. Augustine today through Sunday. Go to for details.

On Saturday the 42nd annual Matanzas 5000/Matanzas 5K and Fun Run takes off at 9:15 a.m. from next to Francis Field. Today and Saturday a Runners Expo is being held at Ketterlinus Elementary School Gym on Orange Street. Money raised goes to help track teams at schools in St. Johns County.

Interlachen Historical Society presents Putnam County: A Southern Story on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Interlachen Hall. Written and directed by Dianne Jacoby, the show features six vignettes featuring stories about Putnam history. Live music will be performed between the stories.Tickets are $12 at the door.

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