The Voice of the Gem City

News March 1, 2022

Marcia Lane12:09 PM (0 minutes ago)
to marcia, me

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

What started out as a workshop Monday for Palatka residents to say where they wanted to see just over $5 million from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act spent turned into a continuation of community concerns about recent shootings, primarily on the Northside of Palatka. Police Chief Jason Shaw again didn’t come under attack directly but some of his officers and their perceived attitude toward the public did. After a meeting Friday of city officials and the Hightower family who had 20 rounds fired into their house recently, Shaw said efforts are being made to coordinate information between school resource officers who work for the Putnam County Sheriff Office, school administration officials and the Palatka Police when fights occur at Palatka Jr.-Sr. High School and then spill out into the community. Commissioner Justin Campbell said he didn’t want the blame shifted to schools noting police didn’t pay attention to an early warning about the shooting. Commissioner Tammie McCaskill, whose son was killed in a shooting in 2019, said “what’s going on in the community is bigger than our police department” and noted a lack of respect for the department. Both McCaskill and Campbell work for the school district. Both McCaskill and Chief Shaw spoke of the need to improve communications with the community including plans to hold monthly meetings, the first of which will be in March at the Price-Martin Center.

Putnam County commissioners this morning were at a special meeting continued looking at how to spend the nearly $14.5 million they’re getting in American Rescue Plan Act money. They have about $1.8 million that’s not committed. In January they decided to spend to spend about $10.7 million on a communications system upgrade, VFD water system upgrade and phase 1 of a water system expansion. In February, proposals for purchasing four ambulances, QuickResponse squads and citizen water hook up plus a correction in the communication consulting cost took up almost $2 million more.

In Palm Coast Councilman Victor Barbosa says an allegation of shoplifting at Walmart was based on a mistake made because he was in a hurry. On Sunday a store officer accused him of shoplifting by not scanning an item at self-checkout. Barbosa was taken into custody but not charged with shoplifting since Walmart has a policy of not seeking prosecution for items under $25. However, he was trespassed from the store. Barbosa said he was getting $300 worth of merchandise but failed to scan one item. He said he contacted Walmart headquarters, got an apology and the trespass is being revoked. Flagler County Sheriff’s Office as of Monday hadn’t received that information. 

Linda A. Wagner from Melrose has filed her intent to run for the District 4 seat on the Putnam County School Board, according to Putnam Supervisor of Elections Charles Overturf III. That seat is currently held by Bud McInnis and includes much of the western section of the county.

Returns to pre-pandemic operations are beginning to be seen. Monday was the last day for the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County to have a special COVID-19 testing operation near the Flagler airport. Demand for testing results have dropped as positive case levels have dropped, according to the county’s health officer Bob Snyder. Testing is still available through corporate and independent pharmacies and urgent care centers. Meanwhile in Putnam County Epic Cure — Palatka, which as been proving food for people in need, will no longer be using drive thru to supply recipients. Beginning this month they are going to a grocery store-type system with people going inside a building to pick up their food.

Don’t forget to get your free ticket for the Sean of the South program this Thursday. Go to to print out your tickets. Sean Dietrick’s book The Incredible Winston Browne is this year’s One Book One Putnam reading choice. He’ll be speaking at 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida School of the Arts on the Campus of St. Johns River State College. You can hear a preview on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. on WPLK/WIYD with a live interview as Radio Red talks with the popular author.

Make sure you take time to enjoy today — Fat Tuesday. It’s the last day of Carnival and the day before Ash Wednesday beginning 40 of Lent with prayer and fasting traditions in the Christian church. In New Orleans and elsewhere they’re letting the good times roll today with Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday. Some of the rest of us will be celebrating with pancake suppers, a way of clearing out some of the traditional rich foods that are given up for Lent.

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