The Voice of the Gem City

News January 26, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a crash Tuesday morning involving a school bus that sent three Palatka Junior-Senior High School students to Putnam Community Medical Center with minor injuries. According to reports a car struck the bus around 8:30 a.m. at Crill Avenue and Latesha Terrace. FHP said he driver was cited for a right-of-way violation. Five other high school students who were on the bus were taken to school on another bus since the crash disabled their bus. Parents of all eight were notified, according to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. 

Growth in St. Johns County government has officials looking for ways to cope. In the last 10 years the county has seen a 44 percent increase in population. Both the school board and county commission Tuesday were looking at issues regarding growth. The school board  is going forward with plans to add 120 new relocatable classrooms to 16 schools for the next school year. They’ll be removing 17 portables from two schools. That’s in addition to the new high school that will open up in the Beachwalk Community. And four new schools are planned in the next five years. Still to be answered is where needed teachers and personnel including bus drivers and maintenance workers to run the schools will be coming from. Throughout the state that’s becoming a problem. As for the county commission, at a workshop Tuesday they heard from a number of people about the need to slow growth. Among issues commissioners are looking at is that 13 roads in St. Johns County need to be fixed and/or upgraded. That could cost $155 million. Preserving rural and agricultural land was another concern as was what some see as not enough control over allowing development. Developers were given the go-ahead to build more than 800 single-family homes last year. Being floated by County Commission Chair Harry Dean is the possibility of an increasing sales tax. He brought it up on a local TV show talking about a referendum on a sales tax increase from 6.5 cents to 7.5 cents. On Monday the city of St. Augustine held a public workshop to talk about turning three pieces of property they own into affordable housing sites. 

In Putnam County local business leaders are floating the idea of hiring an events coordinator. Many are part of the I heart Putnam group and some of whom have an investment in Palatka. They took it to the Putnam County Commission Tuesday saying to start with they’re willing to fund the idea although intake they’d like to see the position become permanent and paid for by others. The I heart Putnam group is among those who see the coordinator as a way to make more people aware of the potential of the county.

Speaking of events, the 11th annual fly-in and classic car show is returning to the Palatka Municipal Airport on Feb. 5. The event, which airport manager John Youell has built into a popular happening, is being run by others this year. For first time there’s an entry fee $10 per vehicle.

Palatka City Commission won’t be meeting this Thursday. The meeting was cancelled when the commission calendar was adopted late last year.

A Palm Coast man who killed his 89-year-old father in 2006 but was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a state mental facility is being recommitted after a series of concerning behaviors. Richard Dunn, 62, who is schizophrenic, was ordered recommitted Tuesday after two days of testimony in Flagler County. He had spent seven-and-a-half years in a facility and another seven in a half-way house before being allowed to live on his own in Palm Coast although with supervision. Recently he was allowed to reduce his medicine dosage and after that began having problems. Currently he’s in jail waiting for an opening at the state hospital which has a waiting list of more than 500.

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