April 16 – Roving reporter
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An attempt to reinstate Palatka city manager Bill Shanahan failed Wednesday night during a special commission meeting attended by commissioners teleconferencing from five locations. Commissioners Rufus Borum, Tammy McCaskill Valentine and Mary Lawson Brown didn’t change their minds about ending Shanahan’s tenure and this time didn’t hesitate to specify their problems with him. Among those issues lack of responsiveness to commissioners, moving and reorganization of city jobs including an $18,000 retroactive pay raise for a department head, ignoring requests, forced resignation of the city clerk and concerns over lawsuits he had at other posts. Mayor Terrell Hill, who called the meeting, attempted twice to make a motion to re-instate Shanahan. The first failed for lack of a second, which was when commissioners found out Commissioner Justin Campbell had signed off. He came back later saying he had had to take another meeting with his staff. Campbell has a full-time job with the district school board as do Borum and Valentine. Another attempt by Campbell and Hill to keep Shanahan failed also. Hill, who compared himself to a quarterback on a football team, said there had been a lack of communications between commissioners and that need to be fixed. More than 260 people watched the meeting on YouTube and a number commented including former Palatka Mayor Karl Flagg who at the end wrote: What is the commission’s strategy to deal with the apparent discontent and dysfunction?”
A third person has died in St. Johns County in a coronavirus-related death, according to the Florida Department of Health. The victim is a 79-year-old man. The case was travel-related and the man had contact with a confirmed case. St. Johns has had 178 cases. In Putnam Country two more people have tested positive. One is a 16-year-old Palatka man with an unknown travel history. The other is a 23-year-old woman from Satsuma with no travel reported. That makes 46 cases in Putnam. Flagler County also is at 46 cases.
Coronavirus is taking its toll on farmers particularly those who sell to schools, restaurants and theme parks. The Florida Farm Bureau offices serving Columbia, Baker, Nassau, Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties is helping out by buying nearly $30,000 in crops. The food will be given away to communities in those areas.
St. Johns River Water Management District governors joined the trend of meeting via teleconference Tuesday. They approved project rankings for two cost share programs aimed at nutrient load reduction, alternate water supplies and flood protection. Five projects approved to share more than $700,000 for nutrient reduction include Green’s Farms in Flagler County and C.P. Wesley Smith Inc, Tater Farms, Riverdale Potato Farms and De-Lee Produce LLC, all in St. Johns County.
The Ocklawaha River has been named among America’s 10 most endangered rivers by a national river advocacy group. Also included on the American Rivers list are the Okefenokee Swamp and St. Mary’s River. Top of the list is the Upper Mississippi River. Last year 13 states saw $6.2 billion in damages because of flooding and other issues linked to the river.
St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office detectives Wednesday arrested a man facing charges of setting another man on fire. Brian Connor, 35, allegedly set the man on fire at Woodlawn Terrace Apartments on West King Street in an argument over money owed. The man ran to a nearby apartment where people smothered the fire and the victim was flown to the burn unit at UF Health Shands in Gainesville. He is in critical condition. Connor faces charges of attempted murder, arson and burglary.
Continuing large gatherings of mostly young people in defiance of stay-at-home orders has Palatka’s mayor contemplating a curfew for residents. Mayor Terrill Hill Wednesday warned the continuing disregard for public safety could lead to the city putting a curfew in place.
S.A.F.E., a non-profit animal rescue operation n St. Johns and Putnam counties, is gearing up for its annual online auction and is seeking items. Nationally known flyer and aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff who runs an airshow and aerobatics operation out of St. Augustine, is among those stepping up. “Sure – how about a flight with us at our aerobatic school,” she offered on Facebook, adding “Might have to wait until June though.” You can check out that and other auction opportunities at the S.A.F.E. site on Facebook.
For guys at Rodeheaver Boys Ranch south of Palatka, Good Friday 2020 will have special memories. Last Friday the boys, who had built a large cross in wood shop class, joined in prayer and then took turns carrying the cross all the way to the St. Johns River, which borders the non-profit. They then set it up in a special place for all to see, according to Ranch staff.
This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
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