The Voice of the Gem City

News March 2, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

St. Johns County Commission is moving forward with putting an additional penny sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot hoping to get the public’s support. If passed they say it would up the tax on a dollar from 6.5 cents to 7.5 cents and be in place for 10 years. With the $500 million the tax is expected to generate, commissioners propose $243 million for infrastructure projects including roads, bridges and transportation, $88 million for five new parks, $49 million for public libraries and $120 million for public safety enhancements including police, fire and rescue. That $120 million includes a new sheriff’s command center. Those in the know politically say it could be a hard sell to voters.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to renew old friendship. A Flagler Beach man who got out of state prison in October may be headed back after allegedly trying to bribe a Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputy in a drug trafficking attempt. Sean Fitzpatrick, 34, ran into a childhood friend who is now a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office. During the talk he allegedly offered to take any illegal drugs the deputy might have access to and sell them for him, with the two sharing the profits. The deputy reported the conversation to detectives and the Special Investigation Unit had him arrange further meetings. At one Fitzpatrick allegedly took possession of a kilo of cocaine from the deputy who told him he was taking it to be destroyed as one of his duties with the Sheriff’s Office. That’s when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Tri-County Task Force moved in and arrested Fitzpatrick who is in jail on an $800,000 bond. Agencies from St. Johns and Putnam are part of the Task Force.

Putnam County commissioners have earmarked how to spend more of their 2021 American Rescue Plan Act after a third hearing Tuesday. With $14.4 million originally allotted, the commission was down to less than $2 million. They’ve now agreed to spend about $1.52 million of that for refurbishing parks in Putnam. South Putnam gets some of the money, John Theobold Sports Complex in Palatka the rest. Another $150,000 will go for resurfacing Bardin Ranchette Road. That leaves around $111,000.

Drive carefully. Bike Week 2022 gets underway in Daytona Beach Friday and continues through March 13. More than half-a-million people are expected to turn out for this year’s event. That makes for a lot of people unfamiliar with the area roadways and many are staying in counties other than Volusia

A governmental affairs specialist is the new interim city commissioner for St. Augustine Beach. Beth Sweeny was selected Monday by the commission and will serve until the November 2022 elections when a permanent commissioner will be voted in. Sweeney used to be director of policy and government relations for the St. Johns County School District and is currently director of external and government relations for Flagler College. The commission post became open after Ernesto Torres resigned in February. He reportedly tried to get a police officer to let his wife off after she was stopped for driving under the influence. Torres was in the car with her at the time.

Palm Coast Councilman Victor Barbosa officially resigned Tuesday night. On Sunday he was trespassed from Walmart after an allegation of shoplifting. Barbosa had said he was buying about $300 in merchandise and a $18 clothing item failed to scan as he went through a self-scan line. In his resignation letter, he wrote “Thank you to all that voted for me. All I want is my peace back.”

Sean Dietrich is coming to Palatka Thursday to discuss his book, “The Incredible Winston Browne”. That’s the One Book One Putnam Community Read for 2022. His free talk is at 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida School of the Arts. Tickets are free and required for the event. You get them by going to

Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten season. Various churches in the area are holding services today with believers receiving ashes in the shape of the cross on their forehead, a sign of repentance. Today begins the season of Lent leading up to Easter, which this year is April 17.

%d bloggers like this: