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Latest from Steven Ponson

    Wednesday morning the Jacksonville City Council and the Duval County School Board held a joint meeting to discuss the proposed half-cent sales tax, that if approved by the voters, would help pay for nearly $2 Billion worth of infrastructure improvements at schools across the county. Passions were high for those on both sides of the issue. Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene says action is needed on this issue.  “We have to do this and we have to do it now.” Dr. Greene says.  While City Council President Scott Wilson still has some reservations about the plan.  “I don’t see how the school board or the City of Jacksonville can get this passed in 2019.” Wilson says. Tuesday, WOKV updated you on this story after the city’s Office of General Counsel sent out a legally binding opinion which said only the city council can put the question on the ballot as well as when the measure happens.  Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, we spoke to School Board Chairwoman Lori Hersey and she said she is not surprised by the general counsel’s opinion.  “It mirrored the memorandum that was given back around April or May.” Hershey says.  No action was taken at the meeting Wednesday. The request to have the half-cent sales tax referendum on the ballot stills needs to clear two city council committees before it goes to the full city council.  
  • After most of Northeast Florida students went back Monday, Tuesday it was Clay County District Schools turn to head back as well as Jacksonville area catholic schools. This year the Clay School District says nearly 40,000 students will be heading back and as they return to the classroom one of the changes in place will be security. This school year will be the first for the newly formed Clay County School Police Department and Director of Operations for Safety and Security, John Ward, says building relationships with students, teachers and the community will be important. “We will work very closely with the sheriff’s office and our police department and all other community partners because it’s a one team one fight for security within our school district.” Ward says.  As it relates to security, Ward says another change as we start the year will be an enhanced visitor management system when you go and see your child at school.  As the district deals with security changes at schools, they’re also looking to hire more bus drivers. The Director of Transportation for the district Derald Sweatt says they need to hire about 15 more drivers to help build up their bench in case someone needs to take a day off.  “We’ve got about 200 drivers that we have that come back every year that are just, you know, rockstars in my opinion.” Sweatt says.  Going into the school year Sweatt says all bus routes are covered and bringing more people on as drivers is about staying efficient so that way there are no gaps in coverage or they’re forced to double up students on buses.   He says the district hired 12 people over the summer and there is currently a class of 10 people who are going through training right now. He hopes to have the class of 10 on the road by early September. If you are looking to apply, some of the requirements include having seven years of documented safe driving history and the ability to pass a level II FBI background check among other things. The district says free CDL training is provided for those who apply as well as a sign-on bonus once requirements are met and starting pay is $12.67 an hour.   To apply click here.
  • Summer vacation is over for most students across Northeast Florida as Monday is the first day of school for Duval, St. Johns, Nassau and Baker County public schools. In Duval, first high school students will head back, then elementary students will return and finally middle schools.  If you have younger children who ride the bus, Duval Public Schools is encouraging you to make a cheat sheet with their bus information on it. Erika Harding, Director of Transportation for DCPS, says an index card with your student’s name, your name and contact information, the bus number and bus stop will work. “The little people get nervous and they may have memorized all this information and then the day of, when it’s showtime, they forget.” Harding says. If you have any questions about your child’s bus or bus stop, a transportation hot line is now open for Duval Public Schools. They’re taking your calls at 904-381-7433, Monday through Friday from 7AM until 6:30PM. The hotline will be open until August 23rd. 
  • Its an important reminder before students head back to school. The mother of an 11-year-old boy hit and killed while walking from his bus stop in Arlington last year is warning you to be alert as traffic patterns start to change.  The mother of Terry Bryant Jr., Tanya Brown says losing a child is impossible to put into words.  “We are gonna miss so many milestones with him. Ya know, we’ll never be able to see him grow, we’ll never be able to see him graduate, we’ll never be able to see him accomplish his dreams.” Brown says. According to numbers from the state there were 471 pedestrian crashes last year in Duval County and there were 32 pedestrians killed. Also, the Transportation Research Board says nearly 100 children are killed every year while walking either to or from school. As hundreds of thousands of students will be returning to the classroom in Duval this Monday, the school district has their own safety tips for parents and drivers. One of them includes parents waiting with their children at the bus stop, and if your child is crossing the street, make sure they walk at least 12 feet in front of the bus after the bus driver lets them know it’s safe to cross. Duval public schools go back this Monday along with St. Johns public schools, while Clay public schools return next Tuesday.
  • Update Jacksonville Police say the two missing 9-year-old boys they had been searching for all night long have been found safe. Police say they wanted to thank everyone for calling in tips that led to them being found. Original Story Jacksonville Police need your help finding two missing 9-year-old boys. Police say Romeo Reese (Pictured left) and Adonis Davis (Pictured right) we’re last seen walking in the Ricker and Melvin Road area on Jacksonville’s Westside Monday night at 7:30. JSO says both kids told their caregivers they were staying over at each other’s house. JSO says since they are both 9-years-old they’re concerned for their well-being.  JSO says Reese is 4’11” 105 lbs. with brown eyes and brown hair last seen wearing a blue Pokemon shirt, blue shorts and black and red sneakers. Davis is 4’5” 80 lbs. with brown hair and brown eyes last wearing a blue Lego shirt and black jogging pants.  JSO says if you’ve seen them since last night you’re asked to call them at 904-630-0500 or you can email them at JSOCrimeTips@Jaxsheriff.org.
  • Fernandina Beach Police are investigating a shooting from Thursday evening that has now turned deadly. According to the arrest report from police, Zachary Jamison is charged with second degree murder and aggravated assault after the incident. The report says the victim, Jovan Richo who is from Jacksonville, was standing with some family members outside a home on Elm Street near South 9th Street when another group walked up to them and started yelling at around 7:30. After attempts to deescalate the situation, one of Richo’s family members saw a dark grey car pull up with a man getting out and shouting “What’s up?” before shooting towards Richo’s family members at least four times. Police say Jamison was about 100 feet away when he opened fire.  The report says several witnesses told police they saw Jamison get out of the car and shoot towards the group of people.  After the shooting, witnesses say they heard Richo say that he was shot. He was eventually taken to UF Health in Jacksonville where he died during surgery. In an initial release from police, it was said he was in serious condition after the shooting. The report says the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office was able to find Jamison at an apartment complex near Old Nassauville Road where he was taken back to Fernandina Beach for questioning. The report says during questioning Jamison claimed he was not at the scene and didn’t shoot anybody.
  • The tropical wave we’ve been tracking all week long is finally starting to have an impact our weather today. Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says showers and thunderstorms will be increasing today in Northeast Florida.  “Virtually everybody getting at least one shower or storm sometime or another through the day today and again over the weekend as well.” Mike says. Mike says rainfall rates will average as much as 1 to 2 inches and even more in some spots. Looking ahead to Saturday, Mike says there will still be some showers caused by the tropical disturbance off our coast. He says some showers will be heavy, but there will also be plenty of breaks in the rain.
  • The heat and humidity sticks around Northeast Florida Thursday as our rain chances increase this afternoon. Despite the increase, Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says the storms that do develop will still be widely scattered. “Today about 30 to 40 percent of the area gets some rain as widely scattered showers and thunderstorms will first develop near the I-95 corridor early this afternoon and then shift more inland later in the day, but still pretty hit and miss, but locally heavy.” Mike says. Mike says the rain chances increase tomorrow and into the weekend with on and off heavy showers and thunderstorms.  Meanwhile, Mike is tracking two tropical waves in the Atlantic basin. The one he’s been tracking all week is now moving into the Southern Bahamas and remains poorly organized. The wave is going to move past our area by Sunday and Mike says it will only have minimal impacts on our weekend weather. Mike says the second wave should move into the Central Atlantic by this weekend and could become the next named storm.
  • The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office says a 22-year-old Iowa man apparently drowned while on his honeymoon Tuesday afternoon. Deputies say they responded to a condominium complex on A-1-A, south of Crescent Beach, and when they arrived they found Dalton Cottrell unresponsive. Deputies say he was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.  According to the incident report, The Sheriff’s Office says Cottrell’s wife told them they were on their honeymoon and were carried out deeper into the Atlantic because of the current. Deputies say she told them it was his first time ever in the ocean and he started to freak out. She tried to help but couldn’t because he kept pulling her under. She told them he was under water for about a minute before he came back up. According to the report deputies are describing the death as accidental.
  • After a nice break from the heat in Northeast Florida, the heat and humidity will return for Wednesday. Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says we’ll get into the lower 90’s and the humidity will remain high, so feel like temps will get close to triple digits. “We’ll see a widely scattered afternoon shower or thunderstorm, I’ve been mentioning that each day this week, becomes a little bit better chance for rain and storms, and so we start that today, but even today, the coverage will be less than a quarter of the area.” Mike says.  Mike says as mush as 50% of the area will get rain Thursday, and at some point, everyone should get some rain on Friday and into the weekend. Meanwhile, Mike is tracking multiple tropical waves in the Atlantic basin. One is now west of Puerto Rico and Mike says it should be off the Northeast Florida coast by Sunday and will have minimal impacts on our weekend weather. The second one is in the Eastern Atlantic and that one has the potential to develop into a named system and could be off the coast of the Southeastern U.S. in the next week and a half.  You can get more in Talking the Tropics with Mike updated every day during hurricane season.
  • Steven Ponson

    Reporter

    Steven Ponson is the morning reporter for Jacksonville’s Morning News. He has been with Cox Media Group since the summer of 2015, and been living in Florida for over 20 years. Steven is an alumni of the University of Central Florida where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television and a minor in Sociology. It’s a dream come for him to work in the radio business and has a family legacy in Florida radio. When he is away from WOKV, he likes to spend time with family and friends and is an avid football and hockey fan.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • Just a month after City of St. Augustine Beach leaders passed bans on the sale and distribution of plastic straws, plastic bags, and Styrofoam, it all may need to be rolled back. That's as a Florida appeals court has struck down a similar ordinance in Coral Gables. The court found that their ban violated a state law that stops local governments from regulating Styrofoam.  Attorney Jane West, who pushed for the St. Augustine Beach bans, tells our partner Action News Jax, that after the city passed the measures, they received a letter from the Florida Retail Federation threatening to sue.  'Now that they're armed with this very strong opinion in their favor, the city can't take the legal risk of getting sued and then having to pay all the attorney's fees in defending what is probably going to be a losing case,' says West.  She and other residents believe it'll likely be up to families and local businesses to cut down on their use of these materials on their own. The ban was set to take effect on January 1st, 2020. St. Augustine Beach Mayor Undine George released the following statement about this court decision: “I don’t believe the appellate decision reflects the majority opinion of Fl communities. Even our governor has expressed strong support for local communities’ right to regulate Styrofoam and single use plastics; we are the ones who see and feel their impact. Hopefully, local businesses will listen to the voice of the people and transition away from Styrofoam and single use plastics. Consumers want to patronize businesses who share their desire to protect our environment from harmful pollutants.”
  • The Jacksonville Beach Police Department is turning to the community for any information after a man was fatally shot outside his home. Police have now identified the victim as 28-year-old Jake Hall. Neighbors tell us he was a father of three kids.  Investigators say at this time, there's no clear motive or any information on a possible suspect. That's why they're asking neighbors within a 6 block radius of 17th Avenue North and 2nd Street North to check their doorbell cameras and security cameras for anything that might be of interest to police. They say the shooting happened around 9:40 PM, Thursday evening.  The police department says shootings for the community are rare. According to their stats, the last shooting was in August 2018.
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has released an extremely clear surveillance photo of two armed robbery suspects that they're working to identify. Police say they're accused of robbing the Circle K on St. Johns Bluff Road, Thursday night, just before 11:00 PM. Police are asking anyone with information about either suspect to contact the sheriff's office at (904) 630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-8477.
  • The plane that crashed in Tennessee on Thursday while carrying retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., his family and two pilots bounced at least twice before stopping and catching fire, according to investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board. >> Read more trending news  Officials said the incident happened as the Cessna Citation was landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport at 3:40 p.m. An NBC Sports spokesperson said in a statement that Earnhardt, his wife Amy, his 15-month-old daughter Isla and two pilots were safe after the crash.  Update 2:35 p.m. EDT Aug. 16: Investigators will spend at least two days collecting evidence from the scene of the crash, Ralph Hicks, a senior investigator with NTSB, told reporters Friday. Authorities have reviewed surveillance footage from near the crash site which showed the plane bounced at least twice before coming down hard on one of the landing gears, Hicks said. 'You can actually see the right main landing gear collapsing in the video,' he said. 'The airplane continued down the runway off to the end, through a fence, and it came to stop ... on Highway 91.' Hicks said the crash site was about 1,000 feet past the end of the runway. The plane had taken off about 20 minutes before the crash from Statesville, North Carolina, Hicks said. The aircraft was not equipped with a data recorder, though Hicks said other instruments recorded some data. Officials are also analyzing a cockpit voice recorder. Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the crash. Update 2 p.m. EDT Aug. 16: Authorities are providing an update Friday on the investigation into Thursday's plane crash. Update 1:50 p.m. EDT Aug. 16: Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration said no injuries were reported as a result of the crash, although the Cessna 680A aircraft was destroyed. The Earnhardt family and the pilots were the only passengers listed on board when the crash happened. Authorities are expected to provide more updates on the incident at 2 p.m. news conference Friday. Update 11:50 a.m. EDT Aug. 16: Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are scheduled to hold news conference Friday afternoon to update the public on the investigation into Thursday's crash.  Update 9:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 16: Earnhardt's sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, thanked God, supporters and medical staff early Friday in a Twitter post after Earnhardt and his family survived a fiery plane crash in Tennessee. 'Finally laying down for the night and want to say thank you to God, the angels among us, our pilots, first responders, medical staff, our NASCAR family and everyone that has reached out in whatever way to support us all,' Earnhardt Miller wrote in a post around 12:30 a.m. Friday. A nurse who witnessed the crash told WSOC-TV her instincts kicked in Thursday when she saw the jet skid off the runway. '(The) first thing that went through my mind was, 'Lord, I hope there was nobody in the plane that's still in the plane,' because it was completely engulfed,' she told WSOC-TV. She added that as she tried to help, the plane, it was smoking out the back and then, all of a sudden, it caught on fire.' An NBC Sports spokesperson said Thursday that Earnhardt was taken to a hospital but released a short while later. Authorities are investigating the cause of the accident. Update 9 a.m. Aug. 16: Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were in Elizabethton on Friday morning, WJHL reported. Agency officials said Thursday that two NTSB officials were being sent to investigate the incident. Federal Aviation Administration officials were also expected to be on the scene Friday, WJHL reported. Original report: Retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife Amy Reimann were aboard a private jet when it crashed at the Elizabethton Airport, in Tennessee.  Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford told WJHL that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was taken to an area hospital and his injuries are described as cuts and abrasions.  Lunceford also said that his wife and child were onboard as well as the family dog. The pilot and one other passenger was also onboard. Earnhardt Jr. sister, Kelley, tweeted that everyone involved survived the crash. 'We're incredibly grateful that Dale, his wife Amy, daughter Isla, and the two pilots are safe following today's accident,' NBC Sports said in a statement. 'After being discharged from the hospital, we communicated with Dale and his team, and we're all in agreement that he should take this weekend off to be with his family. 'We look forward to having him back in the booth next month at Darlington.' According to WJHL, emergency crews responded to the crash involving the Cessna Citation Latitude business jet that ran off the end of the runway Thursday afternoon. It's not clear if the plane was departing or arriving. Earnhardt retired as a full-time racer in 2017 and has been working as an analyst for NBC. He is part of the scheduled broadcast team for Saturday night's Cup Series event in Bristol, Tennessee.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • It's an exciting day for the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park! The zoo held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new sloth exhibit. WOKV told you back in July, when the zoo brought in two Hoffman’s two-toed sloths named Teddy and Grizzly.  The zoo says the exhibit is part of the rainforest habitat as guests walk into the ‘Land of the Crocodiles.’ Despite sloths typically being solitary, the zoo has said Teddy and Grizzly share a strong bond.

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