More firefighters on the job in Clay County


CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Thanks to a federal grant for more than $2 million, 21 more firefighters are on the job at several station in Clay County.

Deputy Chief David Motes said it's a big step forward.

"It gives us our 4 firefighter minimum in the station, and helps us with our response to our citizens," he said.

The jump in staff has happened at fire stations in Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Orange Park, Keystone Heights, and Fleming Island.

"It's the largest group of firefighters Clay County has ever hired in our history," Motes said.

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Dogs at Clay County Animal Care and Control in need of homes


CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Clay County's Animal Care and Control just west of Green Cove Springs on State Road 16 is packed with dogs.

So much so, that a high school student reached out to First Coast News for help spreading the word so more people will adopt a dog and avoid possible euthanization.

Fifteen-year-old Clay High sophomore Alyssa Fischer volunteers at Clay County Animal Control and is sad to see so many dogs needing a home outside these cages.

"So many dogs are in the kennels, even five dogs in one cage if they are not that big so we really need people to come out and adopt, foster, rescue, anything you can do," said Fischer.

Volunteers put up a sign saying "ADOPT," using red and white cups along the fence for people to see while driving by.

Harvey's Supermarket closing in Green Cove Springs as is a distribution center, lost jobs


GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Bi-Lo, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, has purchased 155 stores, including Harvey's, Sweetbay and Reid's, which will result in the closing of a Harvey's Supermarket in Green Cove Springs.

It is being closed due to its proximity to Winn-Dixie, which is about a mile north of Harvey's on U.S. 17.

Charlie Thomas has been shopping there for 7 years and he won't be happy to see it closed on May 3rd.

"We are really going to miss it , because I shop here 3 or 4 times a week. And by comparison with prices at the Winn-Dixie right up the street here, we are going to miss this store," he said. "Cheaper, they always have good deals."

Bill Smith just moved to Green Cove Springs 6 months ago and enjoys shopping here.

Teen spends 35 days in jail after mistaken arrest


GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) - Three northeast Florida sheriff's deputies have been disciplined after an arrest mix-up sent the wrong teenager to jail.

The 17-year-old spent 35 days in the Clay County jail after being charged as an adult in a sexual battery case. One deputy also faces a suspension and a transfer.

The Florida Times-Union reports that in a disciplinary letter, Sheriff Rick Beseler wrote that because of that deputy's incompetence, "an innocent man was arrested for an offense that he did not commit."

The mistake wasn't discovered until the teen received court documents detailing the charges against him.

Authorities say investigators failed to confirm their suspect's identity with a photo lineup.

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Former IT specialist accused of stealing $19K in computer equipment

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- A former information technology specialist for the Clay County School District is accused of stealing thousands of dollars in computer equipment from the school district.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office believes Michael Francisco stole at least $19,000 in computer and AV equipment, and then sold the items online.

Francisco worked at multiple schools in the county over the course of eight years.

He is currently being held on $100,000 dollars bond.

Clay County Fire Rescue gets FEMA grant

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Fire Rescue Department is one of five Florida departments seeing part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. 

The grant is designed to make sure communities have enough protection from fire. Clay will get about $2 million.

The money will be used to hire 21 firefighters. They'll be spread through seven departments across the county.

However, it will be several months before they start work. The extra staff means, according to fire chief Lorin Mack, a quicker response time and less of a need to shuffle staff and equipment when there's an emergency.

Get a free, sober ride home tonight

JACKSONVILLE, FLA-- We want you to get the new year started off safely so put this number in your phone, 885-286-9246.

855-286-9246 is the phone number to AAA's Tow-To-Go program.  You don't have to be a AAA member to use the service, it just gets you a safe, free ride home and saves you from driving intoxicated.

"New Year's Eve is the busiest night of the year for the Tow to Go program because so many motorists seem to be more inclined to use a designated driver but don't always have someone willing to be one in their own party during the biggest celebration of the year," said Gerry Gutowski, Sr. Vice President, Automotive Services, AAA–The Auto Club Group. "We prepare our call center teams and tow truck service providers for weeks in advance, so we can manage the increased call volume that's typical of this time of year."