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Jax Daily Record Monday, Sep. 22, 201412:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Who stole 20 alligators from the city zoo?


• The City Commission approved offering a $250 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the theft of 20 alligators from the city zoo. Parks Commissioner Dallas Thomas estimated the loss at $1,000.

• A second proposed financing plan for Jacksonville’s multimillion-dollar airport program failed to get off the ground when the City Commission received no bids on the purchase of the Imeson Airport property.

City Airports Commissioner Louis Ritter said the effort would not stop the attempt to fund construction of a more modern airport.

Ritter said the third try for raising several million dollars for the program would involve placing the question again before voters in another appeal for a general obligation bond issue, which would increase property taxes.

The first financing plan called for $14 million in general obligation bonds and was defeated at the polls April 14. The second plan, a “no tax” proposal, failed when no one submitted a bid on the 1,400 acres at Imeson Airport that would be abandoned by the city when the proposed new airport went into operation.

The third plan Ritter mentioned was expected to include at least $7 million but no more than $10 million in general obligation bonds. The $3 million difference would depend on whether the federal government would absorb all or part of the cost to relocate the Florida Air National Guard unit from Imeson to the new airport.

• Judge John Santora called off future Saturday sessions of Municipal Court. “I’m the only person in the entire city government who works more than five days a week,” he said.

Santora also said there had recently been a decreasing workload.

“Besides,” he said, “I’m lazy and I don’t want to work any more than I have to.”

Section 25, Paragraph 1 of the Jacksonville City Code specifically pointed out the time, place, days, etc. for holding court: “Court shall be held each day at 8:30 a.m., Sundays excepted, for the purpose of hearing all complaints against riotous and disorderly persons and any other violations of the laws and ordinances of the city.”

Santora cited another provision of the city code that said all departments of the city “shall work five days a week.”

Working six days each week allowed the judge to hear a lot of cases. Santora said when he first became a municipal judge, he tried 32,000 cases in the first year.

“Since then we have been decreasing our workload despite the fact that I now try all moving traffic violations. There are now only about 25,000 cases to be tried a year,” he said.

The suspension of court on Saturday meant that people arrested after 5 a.m. Friday would be carried over on bond until Monday morning. All arrested before 5 a.m. would be tried that day.

Santora added, however, that if ever there was a backlog of prisoners, “I’m only as far away as my telephone.”

• Five men were found guilty in Criminal Court and put on probation for one year for burning a large cross June 30 on the lawn of Duval County School Superintendent Ish Brant’s home at 1201 Penman Road in Neptune Beach.

Judge Hans Tanzler Jr. said he would on Oct. 27 impose a fine on Frank Rigdon of 11211 Lem Turner Road, whom he described as the ringleader in the cross burning.

Tanzler told the defendants their personal views were not the question in the case.

“I respect your right to your own opinions. Whether you are Klansmen or not is not my business. But when you invade someone else’s property rights, that is a specific violation of Florida law and is my business,” he said.

Rigdon pleaded guilty while the other four entered pleas of nolo contendre (no contest).

Tanzler delayed levying the fine on Rigdon at the defendant’s request in order to give him time to raise the money. Tanzler said after the trial the fine could be as much as $500.

The five defendants were represented by attorney Wayne Ripley.

• Charles Gant, 43, was given a 90-day sentence on his plea of guilty to assaulting the senior medical officer of the Veterans Administration clinic in the federal building.

The sentence was imposed by U.S. Commissioner P. Donald DeHoff, who was authorized to try cases involving misdemeanors.

The only witness at the trial was Dr. Fred Weichman, who testified he was struck in the face by Gant when he refused to give the man medicine he requested.

Weichman said Gant visited the clinic Aug. 21 and obtained a month’s supply of tranquilizers. Gant returned Sept. 14, asked for a change in medication and received a month’s supply of another tranquilizer.

It was VA policy not to give a patient more than a month’s supply of such a drug, Weichman said. Gant, described as obviously intoxicated at his second visit, asked Weichman to give him another month’s supply of the tranquilizers he had previously been prescribed.

Weichman said he suggested the patient return in a few days to discuss the medication. As Weichman attempted to leave the room, Gant struck him in the face, bending the frame of Weichman’s eyeglasses and causing a slight cut below his right eye.

DeHoff stressed that Gant’s actions could have had serious consequences if the doctor’s eye had been damaged.

Gant’s 90-day term would be served in the Federal Correctional Institute at Tallahassee.

• Jacksonville Beach was ordered closed to swimmers and surfers indefinitely by Police Chief C.H. Franks.

No restrictions were placed on the use of Atlantic Beach or Neptune Beach.

Franks said he closed Jacksonville Beach because of dangerous conditions caused by the effects of Hurricane Dora.

There was no safe automobile access to the beach. All ramps were either so badly damaged or eroded that traffic could not safely pass over them.

The sand was so depleted that at low tide, waves pounded against the seawall in many places, making swimming or surfing extremely dangerous.

There still was a good deal of debris floating in the surf that could cause injury to people in the water.

Although the strand was designated a public highway by state law, the city charter provided that the city manager had authority to close any highway that was deemed unsafe for public travel.

An official of the Ponte Vedra Surf Club said the beach there was open and was being used daily by members of the club and residents of the community for swimming.

• The engineer-manager of the Jacksonville Electric Department alleged that some members of contract crews working to restore power in the aftermath of Hurricane Dora were “goofing off” to increase overtime pay.

Robert Cowan said any crews found delaying work would immediately be replaced and city supervisors were complaining about the malingerers.

“When they try to tell some workers what to do, they take two or three times the time to do the job as they should have. During these last few days, we’ve had a lot of goofing off on the job. We know that. We can’t help it,” he said. “Beginning today, we’re going to watch them like a cat watches a mouse.”

It wasn’t the city employees who were dragging their feet, he said.

“Their loyalty has been 100 percent. Even while contractor’s crews made twice as much money as they do, their service has been wonderful,” said Cowan.

Union scale for linemen was $4.25 per hour with time and a half for overtime and other premiums for night and weekend work.

Cowan reported that 13 days after the storm, power was due to be restored in Orange Park and all other areas knocked out by Dora, except sections along Florida 13 in Switzerland, San Jose and Mandarin.

• As if working for two weeks to restore utilities in North Florida wasn’t enough, vandals were contributing to the woes of workers.

Duval County Patrolman W.D. Knowles said damage estimated at $10,000 was inflicted by vandals firing high-powered rifle bullets into insulators and power lines in the Arlington and Fort Carolina areas.

Electric Department Inspector Edward Carroll said the damaged lines fed sections of

Southside, Atlantic Beach and Mayport.

Carroll said he saw four boys and a girl, all teenagers, with a high-powered rifle Saturday near the east end of Lone Star Road, but thought no more of it until the next day, when he discovered the damaged insulators and


Most of the damage appeared to be confined to the area around Lone Star and Merrill roads.

• City Utilities Commissioner J. Dillon Kennedy said his office had received reports alleging bribes of liquor and small money payments to linemen from homeowners and business people who wanted their electricity restored as soon as possible.

Kennedy said no action had been taken on the reports because of limited information.

“When we tried to pin the callers down to get definite information, they clammed up,” he said. “We would be glad to accept any definite information to pursue and investigate the charge.”

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