This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Mary Garcia, head of the Florida Department of Health in Putnam County for eight years, has retired, citing in part her health and the stress of efforts to combat coronavirus. Diana Duque was named interim administrator. Duque has been a coordinator for Alachua’s County’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and began working for the state health organization in 2007. Garcia cited in part the demands caused by the coronavirus pandemic and does have vacation time built up. Garcia, a public health veteran, was an administrative manager and researcher at Atlanta’s Emory University. She had worked for the state health agency in Volusia and St. Johns counties before being named administrator of Putnam’s department in 2013. With a degree in microbiology, Garcia has overseen the department’s testing and vaccination efforts, coordinating with government and medical facilities in Putnam where residents and officials have praised the smoothness of implementation and carry through. She has roots in the county through her family and said for now she intends to spend some time relaxing.
Today’s the last day residents and stakeholders of Lincolnville in St. Augustine can
have input on a survey regarding the future look of MLKing Avenue. Kimley-Horn and Associates are preparing design concepts to enhance the corridor from Bridge Street to South Street. The historically black area has seen increased gentrification in recent years, pushing out many of the old families.
A non-profit that provides equine therapy in Flagler County has gotten a special exemption from the Flagler County Planning Board and that means they will be able to continue to operate if the county commission agrees. Whispering Meadows Ranch has been in operation for 13 years but late last year a long-dormant land use designation was revived putting the ranch on John Anderson Highway out of compliance. Neighbors seeking to sell property by the ranch brought up the non-compliance issue.
Palm Coast is nearing putting out a request for bids on their garbage service. The $9 million five-year contract with WastePro runs out in 2022. While some complaints have come up over service, a recent survey by the city shows 67 percent of residents are happy with their garbage pick-up service. That may make a difference when officials go over bids.
Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County Wednesday reported 50 new coronavirus cases bringing their total to 21,767 since counting began in March a year ago. Flagler County reported 27 new cases for a total of 6,953. Putnam reported 33 new cases for a total of 6,194.
Coronavirus vaccination efforts continue but the temporary withdrawal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to some negative side effects is causing some changes. St. Augustine has canceled pop-up vaccination clinics scheduled this week at the Visitor Information Center, Hastings Public Library and Mills Field on Racetrack Road. They will be rescheduled. South Putnam Church in Crescent City will hold a coronavirus vaccination Friday using the Moderna vaccine instead of J&J. Pre-registration is required. Call 386-326-3247. The church is at 284 Union Ave.
City of St. Augustine is extending the pilot study to test the effectiveness of discontinuing the use of ammonia in the city’s water treatment process. The study was scheduled to conclude last week but has been extended 90 days to early July.
As three children slept at their Interlachen home Saturday morning, a woman came in and fixed herself coffee and eggs, according to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. The homeowner had gone to work and when her 16-year-old daughter woke up around 9 a.m. she found a stranger in the kitchen drinking coffee. The mother was called, came home and told the stranger, Wendy Kaufman, to leave. Kaufman said “not without her daughters,” according to the report. There is no family connection but the woman did go outside and waited for law enforcement. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Kaufman was arrested and taken to Putnam County Jail on $5,000 bond where they said she is receiving breakfast, lunch and dinner. “No word,” said the office “on how she likes her eggs.
Live dance performances and films created by Florida School of the Arts students, alumni and faculty take place Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the parking lot of the arts school on the Palatka campus of St. Johns River State College. The lot becomes a sort of drive-in theater where performers can perform and the public can safely watch. It’s the latest innovative way the school is coping with coronavirus restrictions.