The Voice of the Gem City

News July 29, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Palatka City Commissioners once again are looking at buying a new city hall. This time Mayor Terrill Hill is pushing for the former First Federal Savings and Loan building at 511 St. Johns Avenue. Commissioners by a 3-1 vote Thursday told city staff  to move forward with what amounts to a 90-day option that will allow for inspection of the building to determine what repairs need to be in. A larger meeting room and private offices which will have to be built are among potential renovations in the building constructed nearly 50 years ago. The St. Johns Avenue building was bought by First Baptist Church after it closed as a bank and asking price is more than $1.25 million. Commissioner Will Jones voted against the proposal pointing out the city had acquired Jenkins gym for $1 from the school board and has found itself paying out nearly $1 million for upgrades to make the gym usable. Commissioners were told Thursday it still isn’t ready for occupancy although it can be used for special events of a week or less.

A 17-year-old female who was tasered by a Putnam County Sheriff’s deputy is recovering after striking the back of her head and spending several days in Wolfson Children’s Hospital ICU, according to family members. Video of the Monday incident was sent to a Jacksonville television station showing the confrontation with Capt. David Usser, but not the events beforehand, said a Putnam Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. “It’s been edited,” said Allison Waters-Merritt of the video showing the firing of the taser. The 17-year-old was one of several girls who allegedly got out of a car and headed to confront a 19-year-old girl in retaliation for breaking up a relationship involving a friend. The 19-year-old had contacted authorities after being harassed the day before and learning the other woman was coming to her house in Crescent City to fight her. Deputies were in the area as the confrontation occurred and the 17- year-old stepped toward two women squaring off. The 17-year-old was found to have a concealed butterfly knife but not charged. 

After months of speculation, the closing of Putnam EDGE charter school has been announced. Test results and financial issues were among main considerations in the decision by EDGE board of directors and backed by the school district, which is ultimately responsible for charter schools. The latest school grade was an incomplete because not enough students took the required state tests. The school has been housed in the longtime Campbell Building on South Seventh Street. The district sold that building several years ago. EDGE opened in 2013.

In St. Johns County today, some teachers returned to school for an optional planning day. On Monday and Tuesday teachers in St. Johns will be back in school for in-service training days with Wednesday marking the official beginning of planning days. Flagler and Putnam County teachers will be returning on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Students in all three counties will be returning Aug. 10 for the 2022-23 school year.

Speaking of school Palatka Police Athletic League presents their annual Back To School Bookbag & Clothing Giveaway this Saturday at 10 a.m. at Family Life Center, 1414 Bronson St. Food and fun are part of the event which continues until 2 p.m. or supplies run out. More than a dozen area business are sponsoring.

With the clocking ticking for school reopening, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public’s help to find a couple of new — and needed — crossing guards. One of the major needs will be at Palatka Junior-Senior High School where longtime guard Ronald Jackson has retired. As Janice Tilton Jernigan noted on Facebook: “Those are some big shoes to fill. Mr. Jackson had it going on.” For a decade plus he was the heart-soul-and whistle for the crossing which serves two schools. Because he was both a crossing guard and traffic director he was also a trained public service assistant with the Sheriff’s Office. Two permanent crossing guard positions and one floater position are needed to be filled for the coming year. Guards are paid and training provided by the Sheriff’s Office. If you’re interested in the job that takes a couple of hours each school day, contact Tammy McEnroe at 386-329-0485.

On Saturday, Garden Club of Palatka marks their 80th birthday celebration with an open house at their club building at Ravine Gardens State Park. The cabin they rent is the only original building from when the Ravines were built as a federal project during the Great Depression. The open house is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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