The Voice of the Gem City

News April 27, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

For 50 years Dr. Robert L. McLendon Jr. and St. Johns River State College were joined at the hip. McLendon, who died Tuesday at the age of 84, retired in 2008 after serving as college president for 36 years. But his history with the college was much longer beginning in 1966 when he joined then-St. Johns River Junior College as dean of academic affairs. He went on to make his mark at the college as it expanded to St. Augustine and Orange Park and Florida School of the Arts was added at the Palatka campus. Dr. Bob was a lover of Civil War history, good conversation, murder mysteries and anything to do with the college. He served the community as well through the Rotary Club of Palatka and All Saints Anglican Church in Palatka. Viewing hours and services will be Sunday at Johnson-Overturf Funeral Home in Palatka.

St. Johns County School Board continues looking at how to shift attendance zones in the northeast and northwest sections of the county in order to cope with continuing growth. And parents keep raising questions. The district Tuesday voted to advertise seven zoning options out of nine that have been discussed. Off the list is a new K-9 school because construction bids came in higher than the expected $45 million. Three more meetings are scheduled before the final vote on rezoning happens May 31.

Flagler County is looking at new strategic priorities. During a meeting of the City Council Tuesday a variety of issues came up including nods to expected problems and future change. Those include expansion west of U.S. 1 and the railroad tracks, electric vehicle charging stations, saltwater canal maintenance and additional parking for the Community Center. The discussion was at a workshop where some 20 potential priorities came up. On May 3 the council will vote on which priorities to adopted. How selected priorities will be put in place will be presented by city staff in June.

Palatka City Commission will be addressing the future also at their Thursday meeting at 6 p.m. Among items on the agenda a request for a brownfield designation for property next to the city’s South Historic District. Developers are looking at putting in a massive project on the old Wilson Cypress and Florida Furniture properties. First, however, they need to get the land cleaned up from pollution from industrial wastes and that will require a brownfield designation so they can get government money for the clean-up. Also coming up at Thursday’s meeting will be an update by Police Chief Jason Shaw on community concerns brought up at the debut Talking Tuesday program. That saw officers and public officials going door-to-door on the city’s Northside to ask residents about issues.

St. Johns County County commissioners heard from the public Tuesday during a meeting focusing on growth and infrastructure. Concerns over unprecedented growth in the coastal county are raising concerns. Between 2010 and 2020 the county’s population increased by 40 percent. St. Johns is now the 10th fastest growing county in the United States.

It’s dress rehearsal night for the Palatka Musical Theatre Department as high school performers ready for the opening Thursday of Hello Dolly! The musical will be presented this week through Sunday and next week for what is always a community highlight. You can buy tickets through Ralph’s House of Flowers or at the door of the Jim Pignato Theatre on the C.L. Overturf Center.

And a farewell in St. Augustine to one of the best of the mom and pop local places. Leroy’s Cafe on U.S. Highway 1 has announced it is closing after a rate increase operators Alma and Mark couldn’t meet. The food was good and so was the service. Leroy’s was the kind of place where people knew your name. And you couldn’t beat their sign which reads: “Not your average hole in the wall.”

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