The Voice of the Gem City

News August 26, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

High school football kicks off tonight in the tri-county area. In Putnam County, the Interlachen High Rams and the Crescent City Raiders will play at home while Palatka High Panthers will be down in Umatilla.

Palatka City Commission went for a marathon Thursday night with a five-hour meeting that included five current commissioners and two former commissioners weighing in on land issues. Although the current commissioners had been talking about how only 40 percent of property owners pay taxes, they may not have done themselves any favors in acquiring more taxes when new homes are built. For one thing they still don’t have impact fees and won’t until April of next year when a study is completed. Then, by 3-2 they voted to allow smaller-than-ever houses to go into residential zoning that traditional sees larger houses and thus more taxes. In the long run, current homeowners in R-1A and R-1AA, the highest residential zoning, could find the value of their homes dropping because of smaller houses going in next to them, say opponents. That’s likely to be the case off Husson Avenue and Edgemore where a builder is attempting to put in a number of small houses next to an existing street of homes where houses are brick and 2,000 plus square feet. Former commissioners James Norwood and Allegra Kitchens both tried to make the case not to change square footage in those areas, but Mayor Terrill Hill and commissioners Will Jones and Justin Campbell turned a deaf ear. Commissioners Tammie McCaskill and Rufus Borom heard the argument but lost the vote.

St. Johns County School Board had its own marathon Thursday as an argument over eight controversial books continued. Some parents were appealing a previous decision to keep the books on library shelves saying the books contain explicit sexual content, child pornography, suicide and child abuse. By 3-2 the board voted to keep the books available, but only after a four-hour meeting where the tone was sometimes heated. Parents opposed to the books have vowed to keep fighting.

Flagler County courts were busy Thursday. A Flagler jury found Jevante Tyquan Hamilton guilty of manslaughter for selling drugs that resulted in an overdose death in August 2019. Half-a-dozen people have bee charged with murder for selling drugs that caused death in Flagler and all have pled guilty and are serving lengthy jail sentences. Hamitlon is the first to go to trial. He ended up being found guilty of manslaughter, not first-degree murder. However, because in the last 10 years he’s been convicted of felonies three times, Hamilton is looking at up to 30 years in jail and at least 15. Also in court was Brooke Lorenzen, 20, who two years ago at the age of 18 killed a man in a drunk driving incident. In her case she pled guilty and a deal had been worked out so she avoided the possible maximum penalty of 15 years and $100,000. She will serve three years followed by 12 years probation and do 100 hours of community service. She must write a letter of apology to the family and her driver’s license is permanently suspended.

Two Putnam County schools had gun-related lockdowns Thursday. The first was an airsoft gun spotted in the backpack of a 7-year-old James A. Long Elementary boy. Long went on lockdown lifting it after he was isolated. The second incident involved an 11-year-old with a BB gun in a backpack at Kelley Smith Elementary. Neither of the guns were loaded but they are illegal to bring to school. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office reminded parents to talk to students and make sure they understand the consequences of bringing guns of any kind.

Velchoff’s Corner, a restaurant in Palatka, offers a classic car show downtown this Saturday from 4-8 p.m. A special permit was approved Thursday after they lost their usual spot. The restaurant, currently serving outdoors only, is at 105 North Second Street just of the St. Johns River.

Lee Conlee House Domestic Violence Center holds a fund-raiser including praise and workshop this Sunday from 4-6 p.m. at Jim Pignato Theatre at the C.L. Overturf Center on 18th Street in Palatka. Tickets are $20 and half a dozen perfumers including Summer Frost, Ms. Princess and Heart & Soul Youth will take part.

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