The Voice of the Gem City

News July 13, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Four city workers and two members of the public showed up Tuesday for the bid opening for the sale of city-owned Hammock Hall in Palatka. Turned out there were no bids to open since no one had made an offer for the three lots and building on Kirby Street in the South Historic District. The building once used as a laundromat and a convenience store became a community center after the city acquired it and got a grant to refurbish it. An appraisal put the property worth at a minimum of $150,000, which city commissioners thought too low. Next step will be up to the city commission. The property is being sold as a whole.

St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an apparent murder-suicide after two bodies were found in a St. Augustine Shores house Monday. Deputies were called to the house after a friend of the two stopped by to drop off groceries and reported finding a note from one of the individuals saying they were dead inside the house. Deputies say both individuals were elderly and suffered from severe medical issues. Autopsies confirmed both had gunshot wounds, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Their names are not being released.

Traffic stops turned out to be bad news for individuals in Flagler and St. Johns counties. Putnam County Sheriff’s Office found nearly $200,000 worth of Ecstasy pills during a traffic stop at State Roads 19 and 100 Tuesday in a rental car. Driver Avery Lee, 31, of Stone Mountain, Ga., had a suspended license and a call to the rental company showed he was not an authorized driver and the vehicle was overdue to be return, the Sheriff’s Office reported. A search of the vehicle turned up a backpack with 28 bags of pressed pills totaling about 10,000 doses. The pills field tested positive for MDMA, also known as Molly and Ecstasy. Lee was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license and for trafficking, a first-degree felony. He was taken to the Putnam County jail on a $150,500 bond. Also arrested and taken to jail was passenger Keandre Hill, 31, of McDonough, Ga. who also was charged with trafficking. His bond was set at $150,000. Sheriff’s officials warn parents the pills were pressed in the shape of a popular character and essentially looked like kid’s  vitamin pills.

In Flagler County on Friday a traffic stop ended a multi-state crime spree for Stephen Johnson, 36, according to the Flagler Sheriff’s Office. Johnson was driving a rental car with a South Carolina tag that was covering a Florida tag. Further investigation found the South Carolina tag had been reported stolen from Beaufort, S.C. Johnson at first said he didn’t know why his Florida tag was concealed by the South Carolina tag but then said he found the tag. A search of the vehicle turned up a purse with identification from Clay County that was taken during a car burglary Friday. Also found two laptop computers, one apparently belonging to a healthcare company, and four cell phones. A notebook with a number of passwords for medical databases was also found. Johnson faces several charges including violation of probation for recent burglary charges in Pompano Beach. He’s previously been charged by 10 agencies including ones in Florida, Delaware and Georgia. No bond has been set.

St. Johns County School Board Tuesday okayed a new K-8 school for the northern part of the county to help relieve continuing growth issues. Two months ago the board rejected bids saying they weren’t sure construction would be finished on time for the 2024 opening. Tuesday they chose the original winners — STG Contracting, who were still the lowest bidder. The new school set for the Shearwater neighborhood will cost $59.4 million. That’s up about $3 million from their April bid. Two years ago the same school plan cost the district $37.2 million, a reflection of growing inflation. 

If you have dinner plans for Bradley’s in Palatka, cancel them for the next two days. The popular local restaurant is closed today and Thursday because of a family emergency, but does plan to reopen Friday.

St. James United Methodist Church holds their Vacation Bible School Friday through Sunday at the church at 400 Reid St. in Palatka. The morning VBS has a barnyard theme. Call 904-806-1426 to pre-register.

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