The Voice of the Gem City

News March 29, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

The body of 22-month-old Jose Lara was found in a septic tank Monday afternoon less than a day after the child went missing from his yard in an area south of Crescent City in southern Putnam County. “It’s certainly not the resolution we would have hoped for,” said Putnam Sheriff Gator DeLoach. The family, who have rented the house for less than a year, may not have known the plywood covered septic tank was there, say officials. On Sunday deputies searched the drain field of the system not realizing the septic tank wasn’t located there. In what DeLoach described as an “overabundance of caution” a septic tank company was called in to check the area on Monday and that’s when the company operator found the ground level concrete pad marking the tank about 40 yards from the house. Weeds and dirt covered the plywood that was serving as a cover. DeLoach said there was apparently enough “spring” to the plywood that after Jose stepped on it and went in, the board came back up covering him. Jose and his sister had been playing in the backyard as their mother watched. She took the little girl inside to clean her up and when she came back, Jose was gone. While bloodhounds searched the area they are trained to look for live people and are not cadaver dogs, said Sheriff’s spokeswoman Allison Waters-Merritt. Multiple bodies of water in the area were checked and deputies worked grid patterns searching the heavily wooded area. Helicopters and drones with infra-red capacity also searched. Between 120 and 140 officers, firefighters and search rescue teams from four counties as well as state law enforcement departments searched the area over about 24 hours. On the ground personnel covered about 1.5 to two square miles of land, while copters searched a 5 to 7 mile radius. DeLoach thanked departments and residents and businesses in Crescent City. “You do not know how truly blessed we feel for your encouragement and support,” he said on Facebook.

At a special St. Augustine City Commission meeting Monday, officials got word they’ll be getting $25 million to deal with a variety of flooding issues in a city that’s only a few feet above sea level. City chief resilience officer Jessica Beach announced the money will be coming from the Federal American Rescue Plan Act which the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is distributing. Biggest project is preventing flooding from Lake Maria Sanchez into neighborhoods downtown. South Davis Shores, another area where flooding is a reoccurring problem, is also on the list. Other projects include the coastline along Salt Run on Inlet Drive and a major dip in the road on West King Street near South Whitney Drive in West Augustine. Also scheduled in locations around the city 20 additional one-way valves that let floodwater leave, but keep the water from coming back.

Flagler County and Flagler Beach law enforcement are continuing an investigation into what turned out to be a phony bomb threat to Flagler Beach pier on Sunday. The threat around 6:30 p.m. led to the evacuation of the pier and surrounding area as well as the closing of State Road A1A. Shortly after midnight authorities allowed the roadway to reopen after no bomb was found. Reportedly the threat is thought to have been traced to a Clearwater individual and his brother who used a livestream video account to broadcast prank calls to police. 

A ribbon cutting today in St. Augustine at the Bridge 

of Lions will officially dedicate Florida’s Newest All American Road along A1A. A ceremony starts at 5:30 p.m with the dedication and ribbon cutting at 6 p.m. It’s hosted by the Friends of A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byways, and comes as the Florida Department of Transportation is holding their Florida Scenic Highways Program annual meeting in St. Augustine. On Saturday the 10th annual Spoonbills and Sprockets Cycling Tour will be pedaling along A1A.

Owners of longtime Palatka business Graphics II have announced they’ll be closing. Opened as Deputy Printing in 1965, the shop has been a staple of the town for 57 years printing through those years everything from high school newspapers to business cards. Now “Mom” Deputy, who celebrated her 91st birthday, has decided to “close up shop and begin a new adventure.” Jean and her late husband, Jim, opened the print shop, eventually moving to their current location on St. Johns Avenue. Son Sam has worked with her in more recent years and been a mainstay of downtown Palatka including running the Christmas Parade and Azalea Festival Parade and activities. Graphics II will close on June 30.

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