The Voice of the Gem City

News July 27, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Work on St. Johns Avenue repairs by the City of Palatka began Tuesday with a project expected to take about a month and disrupt traffic from Moseley Avenue to Benham Street in Palatka. Some businesses were unaware of plans and found parking lot entrances blocked off as work got underway. Drivers were scurrying down little traveled side streets to get to their destinations. 

The St. Johns work is a foretaste of things to come for Palatka’s downtown. The St. Johns Avenue landscaping project will run from Fourth to 13th Street on St. Johns and take about 16 months. The project is out for bid and expected to be awarded by the Palatka City Commission at their Aug. 25 meeting. The project, part of an effort to upgrade and attract more people to the traditional downtown, will include resurfacing, widened sidewalks, curbing and traffic calming  plus new plantings, bike racks, benches and signs.  Downtown Palatka merchants offered some practical input and had questions answered at a business association meeting Tuesday with the city’s Marcia Guano, who oversees the city’s projects. Increasing material prices and worker shortages are an issue for potential bidders she noted. Once the project begins it will become Number One out of 41 current in projects, Guano said. Merchants are looking for ways to encourage shoppers and ease the potential damage the torn up streets will cause.

The chief medical examiner for District 23 has died of “health complications,” according to St. Johns County officials. The death of Dr. Predrag Bulic, 63, over the weekend was announced Tuesday in a press release from the St. Johns County Commission. Bulic was appointed in 2011 by Gov. Rick Scott to be medical examiner for St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler counties. Dr. Jon Thogmartin will serve as district interim medical examiner until a new appointment is made. St. Johns County Administrator Hunter Conrad said Dr. Bulic had served for nearly 11 years with “the utmost professionalism and attention to detail.”

This morning crews began removing the facade of a former sports bar in the 700 block of St. Johns Avenue in Palatka. Downtown Blues Bar & Grill had closed and current owners were facing hefty liens from the city. Original plans called for removal of the entire structure which runs from Reid Street to St. Johns.

St. Johns County is looking at a budget that will include more than $1.2 billion for public safety, new road projects and infrastructure. Part of the money will be coming from additional tax revenue expected because of an increase in the value of property in St. Johns, which has seen a boom in residential growth. Value has risen 17.8 percent which could mean an extra $40 million in tax revenue if tax rates stay the same. Also coming in St. Johns is a proposed one cent sales tax increase. That will be decided by voters during the November general election and will mean sales tax goes from 6.5 cents on the dollar to 7.5 cents. That proposal was made as a way to cover cost overruns on projects to which the county is already committed.

Flagler County Judge D. Melissa Distler is president-elect of the Florida Conference of County Court Judges. She’ll be sworn in July 2024 and will preside over the conference’s 335 county judges in the state’s 67 counties. She’s the third judge to be elected to the post from the Seventh Judicial Circuit which includes Flagler, St. Johns, Putnam and Volusia counties. 

And as they say in show biz, start spreading the news. (Ten points if you get the musical reference.) Palatka High School Musical Theatre Department will be doing Aladdin for their December production. Word’s gone out dance auditions will begin Aug. 12 at C.L. Overturf Center, singing auditions on Aug. 15 at PHS and callback for leads will be Aug. 18 in the PHS theater room. The show produced and directed by Jim Pignato calls for lots of males. A reminder you don’t have to be a great dancer or vocal soloist to audition. But we bet you will be by the time you perform in this show.

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