The Voice of the Gem City

News July 18, 2022

A pilot who crashed near the Palatka Municipal Airport this morning was able to call Putnam County Sheriff’s Office shortly before he went down, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The pilot called 911 about 8:11 a.m. saying he was having issues with his plane and trying to return to the airport. The call cut off and a helicopter and another pane searched the area but couldn’t see anything in the heavily wooded area. The pilot then called 911 again and the communications team was able to ping his location via phone. He was in the area of Browns Lane and rescues got him out of the plane after 9:30 a.m. An ATV took him to a rescue unit and he was flown to HCA Florida Orange Park as a precaution. Only the pilot was in the plane at the time of the crash. Florida Highway Patrol is investigating.

Two top jobs will be coming open at the City of Palatka. During the first budget hearing for the upcoming fiscal year Friday, officials noted both Palatka City Manager Don Holmes and Palatka Attorney Valeria Bland Thomas will be retiring within the next six to nine months. Exact dates haven’t been decided although Holmes’ contract runs out in May 2023. That will mean two major administrative searches must be made. Holmes has been with the city more than 23 years, serving as city attorney for more than 20 years and then stepping in as temporary manager in 2020 when the commission fired then-manager Bill Shanahan. He was later selected for the job. Thomas, who has worked for the state corrections, was chosen to fill the city attorney post. The city is also talking about hiring an assistant city manager and a public information officer.

Expect thunderstorms and extra-high heat indexes to continue. Chance of rain in the area today is at 70 percent and heat index values are as high as 105 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Over the weekend, 2-and-a-quarter inches fell in East Palatka and 3-and-a-half inches in Palatka.

School buses are running as summer school continues in Putnam County. Soon the buses will be running in Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler counties as the 2022-23 school year gets underway. Classes begin in all three counties on Aug. 10. In Putnam and Flagler teachers return on Aug. 3. In St. Johns County, optional teacher planning days begin July 29 with inservice training on Aug. 1 and 2. Teacher planning days begin Aug. 3 and continue through Aug. 9.

Palatka City Hall will be a busy place this week. This morning a special called city commission meeting was held in order to approve a grant for the Palatka Municipal Airport. At 4 this afternoon a special Palatka Planning Board meeting will have board members looking at a minimum square foot building requirement for all zonings. On Thursday two budget hearings are set. At 3 p.m. Palatka Community Redevelopment Agency holds a budget workshop. At 4:30 p.m. Palatka City Commission holds budget workshop.

Palatka mayoral candidates will take part in a forum tonight at Valhalla Hall on the campus of St. Johns River State College. The 6-9 p.m. forum includes incumbent Mayor Terrill Hill and challengers Robbi Correa and Junior Daniel. The primary is Aug. 23.

New Beginning Baptist Church on South Moody Road in Palatka begins Vacation Bible School tonight. Today through July 22 hours are 6-8:30 p.m. and July 24 6-7 p.m. Bible study, games, food, fun, singing and art and crafts are scheduled. Call 904-716-2105.

A new TikTok challenge is proving dangerous and deadly for sea turtles along Florida beaches. The challenge has people digging large holes on beaches and walking away. It’s the middle of seat turtle nesting season and the hatchling coming out of the shell and heading to the ocean can become trapped and die in the pits, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The large holes also can be dangerous for people walking along the beach and unaware of the dugouts. Here’s a challenge to just say no to.

Ponte Vedra/Palm Coast resident Cameron Smith had a great day Sunday when he won the British Open with the best closing round ever shot at St. Andrews. Rory McIlroy was expected to win the 150th Open, but Smith, an Australian, plucked away his victory and made the course his own.

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