Aug. 13 – Roving reporter
This news bulletin is brought to you in conjunction with NATKIM Radio. Listen to WPLK (800 AM), WIYD (1260 AM) and WPLK FM (98.3 FM).
A Crescent City middle school administrator is the latest coronavirus victim in Putnam County. Elias Ramirez became dean of students at George Miller Middle School in 2018, following teaching at three area schools. He was 47. His death is the 28th linked to coronavirus in Putnam County. Also announced Wednesday by the Florida Department of Health in Putnam County were 11 new coronavirus cases, all of which were community acquired. Overall case total is 1,550. St. Johns County on Wednesday announced three new deaths from coronavirus bringing their death total to 39. In addition, 36 new cases of coronavirus were reported with overall total 3,774. In Flagler County six new cases were reported with total since counting began in March at 1,101.
Flagler County’s Planning Board has okayed a couple of major changes for The Gardens, a large development set to go up on two sides of John Anderson Highway in Flagler Beach. They okayed the Planned Unit Development proposal for a preliminary 335 lots to be developed in six phases. The development has drawn lots of push back from residents. Originally it was scheduled for more than 3,000 units. Even with the reductions, another 100 plus residential homes and apartments could go in the 824-acre property. Final approval will be up to county commissioners.
Money will be on Palatka city commissioners’ minds tonight during an on-line meeting at 6 p.m. Budgets for the City of Palatka and the Community Redevelopment Agency are on the agenda as is a reorganization plan. That plan includes a new and salaried position for an assistant city manager, one who reportedly can take care of day-to-day issues freeing up the city manager, currently former city attorney Don Holmes, to work on commission goals, continuity and planning. The public can comment but only through Zoom.
The former administrator of Haven Hospice in Palatka has been named the new patient safety director for Putnam Community Medical Center. Deborah Strickland is already familiar with the hospital, she’s currently serving as chair of the board. Reportedly she’ll step down in September when she takes the job.
St. Johns County school administration will be requiring masks to be worn in schools. Only a few exceptions are in place including when a student is at lunch or can social distance. Days will start with temperatures being checked. Students who repeatedly disobey the mask policy will find themselves in distance learning. District Superintendent Tim Forson says violators won’t have a more severe code of conduct punishment, but mask wearing will be enforced. St. Johns schools reopen Aug. 31. Flagler and Putnam reopen Aug. 24.
Congratulations to E.H. Miller School. Graduation ceremonies were held today at the special education school. This wraps up 2020 graduation ceremonies in Putnam County.
Free coronavirus testing in your car will be available two days next week at the Putnam County Fairgrounds. No appointment is necessary. Children can be tested with parent or guardian present and consent. You stay inside your vehicle and test results will be available within 5-10 days. Days are Sunday, Aug. 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 18, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The free regional testing is partnered by the Florida Department of Health in Putnam County, Putnam County Emergency Management and Putnam County Fair Authority.
Despite recent rains, Putnam Flagler and St. Johns counties still are below average in rainfall, according to a report from St. Johns River Water Management District. Districtwide, July rainfall was 7.27 inches, slightly above the long-term average. However, Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties had the greatest rainfall deficit through July, and overall in the last 12 months received less than 43 inches of rain. That may change since summer storms have moved in with rain predicted throughout the week.
St. Augustine officials say they’ll be moving the Confederate soldiers memorial the last week in August from downtown to a special park at Trout Creek Fish Camp. Commissioner John Valdes, who opposed the move, is among those raising questions about safely moving the obelisk, which has been in its current location 140 years. Valdes is a contractor who’s restored 140 historic properties noted concerns about the brick and mortar crumbling. “If you move it and it comes apart there’s no way to document how to put it back together,” Valdes said at a recent meeting. City Manager John Regan said “There could be unforeseen circumstances.” Cost estimates to move the obelisk have ranged from $226,000 to nearly $400,000.
School districts throughout Florida are waiting for a decision Friday from the Florida High School Athletic Association about starting fall sports in the face of continuing coronavirus concerns. They’ll announce their decision Friday, but for many high school coaches, players and parents the push is on to begin on the Aug. 24 practice date previously announced. That comes despite cancellation of all sports by some colleges including those in the Big Ten and Pac-12.
Wednesday morning Project P.L.A.Y. reopened in Palatka. Opening of the park at the John Theobold Sports Complex off U.S. 17 was given the go-ahead by county commissioners Tuesday. Rotary Club of Palatka originally put together the park with work and support from the community. County recreation now oversees it. The playground and equipment have been a popular spot for children to play.
Putnam County Administrator Terry Suggs is part of a select group. He’s one of only 1,300 local government management professionals to be credentialed through the International City/County Management Association.
A 72-year-old resident at Grand Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center on Palm Coast Parkway temporarily has a new residence, the Flagler County Jail. Donald Lewis Midgett was booked into the jail on a felony charge of molesting a 97-year-old resident with Alzheimer’s. Bond is $50,000. He said he wasn’t aware the alleged victim had Alzheimer’s or was 97. He reportedly told officials he was only aware the victim was older.
Teachers are back in the classroom for pre-planning in St. Johns County. They began Tuesday and continue through today as they learn some new skills including Schoology a platform used to deliver distance learning lessons.
Going a little nuts looking for something different? Palatka Art League offers a weekend of handcrafted arts and crafts items for sale at the Tilghman House, 324 River St., beginning Friday Expect everything from knitting to steampunk sculptures, says Debra Daniels, president of the League. And don’t forget on Mondays the League continues to give out free cloth masks at the TIlghman.
Bread of Life in Palatka continues to serve meals to those in need. Community volunteers help prepare and serve the meals at the Fellowship Hall of First Presbyterian Church of Palatka at 126 S. Second St. With the hot weather, many of their clients need to have sources of water. Donations of cases of water are needed, according to volunteers.
This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
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