This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Ben and Louann Williams of Putnam County have received the statewide Tree Farmers of the Year Award. Each year a tree farmer who has exhibited exceptional forest stewardship to protect and improve forest resources and promote forest forest stewardship is selected for the Jon Gold award. Last week the Williams were taking part in the prescribed burn program on a portion of their property. Their nearly 3,800 acre-Wetland Preserve LLC tract is next to the Rice Creek Conservation Area, and in 2019 the couple received Florida Land Steward Landowner of the Year from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
In a stepped-up joint effort to curb drugs and violence, local law enforcement on Friday took part in two operations. During the day students at Palatka Junior-Senior High School got a surprise as Putnam County Sheriff’s Office youth resource deputies conducted a random drug search in the student parking lot at the school off St. Johns Avenue. Officials say it’s in response to an an ongoing effort to “stop the increased violence that is affecting our students, families, neighbors and friends.” Sheriff’s officials and schools officials say they will continue to “proactively deter drugs from entering our school campuses.” Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Palatka Police department, the Putnam school district and administrators and resource officers were part of the joint effort. On Friday evening Palatka Police and Sheriff’s deputies were on the streets of Palatka’s Northside in a join operation to, in their words, “address a recent elevation in gun crimes in Palatka.” In the last two weeks some eight shootings have been reported in Palatka — six on the north side and two on the south side. More than 50 citizen contacts were made Friday and several drug and firearms violations were investigated, according to the Sheriff’s Office. In one case four teens were stopped and a stolen and loaded handgun found in their vehicle, said officials. The four were reportedly on their way to a teen party.
Dry conditions and high winds have Florida Forest Service fighting four wild fires in Florida’s Panhandle. In the Putnam-St. Johns-Flagler area showers are predicted tonight with chance of rain at 60 percent Tuesday.
Putnam County is preparing for the 2022 county fair at the fairgrounds in East Palatka. Entries will be accepted this Thursday from 2-7 p.m. in the Expo Building and Friday from 1-5 p.m. Entries for bakery, candy and canning division will be received March 17 from 8-10 a.m., according to Vikki Miles, home division chair. The fair will be March 18-23.
Tomorrow is Election Day for commission seats in Flagler Beach in Flagler County and in Welaka in Putnam County. Three candidates are running for the two seats for the Flagler Beach City Commission including incumbents Jane Mealy and Rick Belhumeur and political newcomer James Sherman. Four candidates are running for two Town Council seats in Welaka. They include incumbents Jessica Finch, who is current chair of the Council, and Kathy L. Washington. Also running are Alexa “Lexi” Peronard and Eddie Johns. Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Beachgoers and beach residents in St. Johns County Sunday found themselves having to find a new route after the Crescent Beach Bridge at State Road 206 became stuck in the up position. Florida Department of Transportation fixed the problem and by 4 p.m. the bridge was open again. Quite a change from when the old wooden bridge was in place. It wasn’t a draw bridge and you never had to worry about it going up or down. However, it could give your teeth a good rattle as you crossed.
As people look for ways to help people in the Ukraine, a couple of St. Augustine restaurants are offering an option. The Floridian Restaurant and The Lotus Noodle Bar are hosting a benefit on Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m. They say 100 percent of the money raised will be donated to World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization that provides meals in the wake of natural disasters. They’re currently on the front lines in Eastern Europe feeding refugees displaced by the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia. Both restaurants will be serving from The Floridian at 72 Spanish St. in downtown St. Augustine.
And a belated happy 90th birthday to Mary Garris of Palatka..