This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Florida Department of Transportation is beginning work on a school zone improvement projects in Northeast Florida that will upgrade 141 school zones in 13 counties. The $1.5 million project in DOT’s District 2 seeks to put in place a specific uniform system of high-visibility markings and signage within one mile of all schools on arterial and collector roads. For Putnam that will mean improvements at 13 school zones and nine in St. Johns County. ACME Barricades will do the work, which is expected to be completed by next summer.
An Amazon distribution center that could mean 200 new jobs in St. Johns County is moving through the required government review process. Traffic and lighting issues have been raised about the facility to go at 3960 Inman Road off State Road 16 in St. Augustine. The center would be a “last-mile distribution facility” and be the final stop before packages are delivered. The 125,000 square foot facility will go on about 60 acres.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Detective Agustin Rodriguez has been named Crime Stoppers’ Flagler County Officer of the Year. Currently part of the Investigative Services Division’s Major Case Unit, he’s worked Special Investigation and Major Crimes and was lead investigator on 40 cases last year. Sheriff Rick Staly praised the choice of Rodriguez, noting he is currently lead detective on a very complicated homicide investigation. Coronavirus has cancelled the usual awards banquet, but Rodriguez will receive the award at Monday’s Flagler County Commission meeting.
Coronavirus isn’t being kind to local brick-and-mortar businesses. Young Outfitters on South Second Street in Palatka is going in a new direction, closing their store and turning to an online retail model. Owners of the store for kayakers and others say Dec. 25 will be their last day in the store after two years at the site. But they’re still urging people to shop locally. So is Stephen Barker who posted on Facebook: “Brick and mortar establishments in Palatka set this town apart from many. When you’re Christmas shopping this year, especially with what our nation has experienced economically, why not support a local shop with a few of those gifts under the tree?” It’s a good reminder to support the many local businesses downtown and around Palatka. Make sure you go to downtown Palatka at least one evening – the trees along St. Johns Avenue are wrapped in lights. It’s the Palatka version of Nights of Lights.
Family and friends of a 17-year-old girl killed in a single car accident the day after Thanksgiving in the East Palatka area gathered Thursday night at Mickler’s Beach to remember her. Jaden Gill was in a vehicle with three others when the accident occurred on State Road 207. The driver, an 18-year-old man from Florahome, died at the scene, Jaden the next day. Two other teens were injured. The family had gone to Mickler’s Beach on Thanksgiving, their last gathering as a family.
Some St. Johns County officials and businessmen will get a taste tonight of what it’s like to live in a cardboard box as many homeless do. Business leaders and officials including newly elected Sheriff Rob Hardwick are taking part in the First Coast Sleep Out Challenge, a fund-raiser to shine the light on the homeless. Alpha-Omega Miracle Home in St. Augustine is overseeing the challenge. They provide housing, counseling and spiritual guidance for single mothers and senior women in need. You can find out more by calling 904-823-8588.
Florida Department of Health reported two new coronavirus-related deaths in St. Johns County and one in Flagler Thursday. Flagler County has had 43 deaths since counting began in March. On Thursday 23 new coronavirus cases were reported, bringing the total to 2,812. St. Johns County now has had 99 coronavirus-related deaths since counting began. On Thursday health officials reported 132 new cases for a total of 9,217. In Putnam County 41 new cases were reported, bringing the total of 2,855.
St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office will be collecting toys Saturday at St. Augustine High School beginning at 10 a.m. The school will be doing their part to put in the mood with concerts by the jazz band and concert band. Also Saturday in St. Augustine the Garden Club of St. Augustine will get you in the holiday spirit as they sell handmade wreathes at the clubhouse at 3440 Old Moultrie Road between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. If gardening’s your thing, the Water Works Environmental Education Center and the City of Palatka host a workshop on urban organic gardening this Saturday. The workshop is from 10 to 10:30 a.m. in the garden section of the Water Works, 1101 White Water Dr., Palatka. The workshop is funded by a 2020 TD Green Space Grant.