News

St. Johns County considers penny sales tax hike


ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- St. Johns County commissioners voted Tuesday to consider a penny sales tax and other revenue options.

The proposal is getting a lot of attention.

The increase would take the current six cent sales tax to seven cents.

At City Coffee in St. Augustine, the idea stirred up some discussion.

"I'm not opposed to it off the top. I think for the quality of life in St. Johns County and the quality of services in St. Johns County, we are getting a good deal for the money we are paying," said customer Annie Lechak.

Carolyn Wade opposes a sales tax increase. "I don't an increase in taxes is a good idea," she said. "I don't think we want to harm our tourism industry. It's important to keep our taxes down."

St. Johns County says in order to maintain the services it provides, it needs more money. The county is looking at various options.

Knife in student's bag triggers school gym evacuation


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A student allegedly showing off a knife at Gamble Rogers Middle School in St. Augustine led to a brief evacuation of the school's gym Thursday afternoon, authorities told First Coast News.

According to a St. Johns County Sheriff's Office spokesperson, the student was reportedly showing the knife to a classmate and a staff member saw it. That's when the school called 911, leading deputies to clear the gym while they investigated.

Deputies found one knife on the student and another in his bag, Commander Chuck Mulligan told First Coast News. It's not yet clear whether he'll face any charges.

St. Johns County Schools spokesperson Christina Langston confirmed that the gym was evacuated about 2:20 p.m., noting that students had been released about a half hour before that.

Off-duty officer thwarts St. Augustine stabbing


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- An off-duty police officer made a timely rescue Monday afternoon, thwarting an attempted stabbing and saving a St. Augustine man from a knife-wielding attacker.

According to a police report, the victim was walking on the sidewalk in the 500 block of South Ponce De Leon Boulevard about 4:40 p.m. when he crossed paths with a cyclist, later identified as Paul Lamar Milar. Milar, 53, reportedly asked him, "What did you call me?" the victim told investigators.

When the victim told him he hadn't said anything, Milar allegedly pulled out a knife and kicked the victim in the stomach. "I'm going to kill you," Milar said as he swung and missed with the knife, according to the report.

Woman accused of sexual battery pleads guilty


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A Flagler County woman has agreed to take a plea deal from prosecutors for her role in an alleged sex abuse case involving local students.

Rhonda Williams, 49, pleaded guilty today to charges of sexual battery on a minor under 12 on Monday, court records show.

Williams and her co-defendant, William Clarence Dillow, 27, were arrested last year in connection to a string of allegations against them from former Flagler County public schools students.

Williams pleaded guilty to one count of sexual battery on a person less than 12 years of age and to one count of principal to sexual battery by threat as part of a plea deal, according to court documents obtained by First Coast News.

In the trial facing her co-defendant, Dillow, she is expected to truthfully testify as part of her deal. She cannot have any contact with any victim or the co-defendant.

Police investigating fatal fire in St. Augusttine


ST. AUGUSTINE- Investigators are trying to piece together what started a fire at a home in St. Augustine that killed one person and sent a second to the University of Florida Health burn unit.

The fire was reported around 7:15 p.m. Saturday on Francis Street.

Firefighters responding found a female inside the home and brought her outside, performing CPR. The second person was found deceased inside the home.

If you have any information about this fire, you are asked to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS.


Boil water notice issued for St. Augustine Shores


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Officials issued a precautionary boil water notice Monday in St. Augustine for parts of the Shores subdivision serviced by the St. Johns County utility department.

That's after a contractor reportedly cut a water main while digging, triggering a water main break impacting roughly 900 homes in the area.

The notice affects the following neighborhoods:

  • All roads off San Remo Road east of Shores Boulevard
  • All roads off Christina Drive east of Shores Boulevard
  • All roads off Gilda Drive east of Shores Boulevard
  • All roads off East Bianca Circle east of Shores Boulevard
  • All of the Conquistador Condominiums off Christina Drive

Restoring St. Augustine's Cathedral Basilica


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A First Coast church that is a National Historic Landmark is getting a major overhaul.

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The Cathedral Basilica in St. Augustine is the oldest Catholic parish in the country.

"It's a great renovation," Father Thomas Willis said, standing in the middle of a gutted sanctuary.

Willis leads the Cathedral Basilica while it goes through a renovation it hasn't seen in 50 years.

"It's fifty years later because the church was in desperate need of being addressed," Willis explained.

He said he was concerned about the cracks and water damage in the building, and so was the Bishop.