The Voice of the Gem City

News February 24, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Brownfields are back before the Palatka City Commission at tonight’s 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall. This time instead of trying to designate the entire city a brownfield the request is for what’s now the Wilson Cypress Cove Development. That’s about 50 acres on both sides of River Street where the former Florida Furniture and Wilson Cypress Company were once located. The fire that destroyed much of the remaining Florida Furniture structure in December is still under investigation. The citywide brownfield proposal in January brought howls of protests as citizens turned out and commissioners abandoned the plan. Brownfields are contaminated properties. Being designated a brownfield does come with negative connotation, think Love Canal. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has a program to clean them up once the brownfield designation is declared using taxpayer money for the work when property is being redeveloped or a company is expanding. Both the furniture company and cypress mill used a number of what are considered pollutants.

St. Johns Avenue may have a new addition to its name after tonight’s Palatka City Commission meeting. Under an item entitled Mayor’s Black History Month Presentation are two proposals, one of which is “recommendation to give honorary name of St. Johns Avenue as Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard.” Bethune, a noted black educator, taught for several years at a mission school in Palatka before moving to Daytona Beach where she eventually created what is now Bethune-Cookman University. This is the public’s first look at the planned change on St. Johns which was for many years designated Lemon Street. Mayor Terrell Hill also wants to place a historical marker at the corner of Eighth and St. Johns to mark the Palatka Mission School where Bethune taught. The commission apparently will vote on the two issues tonight.

A 59-year-old woman is in the Flagler County jail charged with fraudulently using a man’s credit cards to make purchases totaling thousands of dollars.  Beverly Leblanc was arrested following an investigation that began when a credit card company called Wilfried Heier, 77, about suspicious activity on his account. Heier called other lenders and discovered a number of charges including online purchases and a three-week motel stay charged to him. Following their own investigation Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies arrest Leblanc who had done housekeeping for Heier. He discontinued her services in December. Detectives reported confiscating notes containing the man’s credit card information as well as receipts, a cell phone, computer, hard drive, cameras and three packages from eBay. Leblanc is in custody on a $10,000 bond charged with fraudulent use of a credit card, a felony.

As the crisis in the Ukraine deepens, a post on Facebook alerted Putnam County residents to a former Palatka resident who is in the country. Chris Efstathion (Palatka South High 1976) and his wife, Anne, are in the mission field in the Ukraine working with college students. They are reportedly not attached to a U.S. national mission organization but with their local church. The post urged people to “pray for their safety as currently they are staying with their work.”

Tonight marks the opening of a musical version of The Secret Garden at Florida School of the Arts on the campus of St. Johns River State College in Palatka. Curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances Friday and Saturday and a matinee Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

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