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PUBLISHED ONLINE MARCH 10, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 10

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
 


County lands another large distribution center

Located just east of Benson near the interchange of I-95 and I-40, Crosspoint Logistics Center will be a massive distribution center projected to employ as many as 300 persons after it becomes operational a year from now. It's being built by Edgewater Ventures, a Raleigh-based commercial real-estate developer. Johnston's County Commissioners approved property-tax incentives for the project following a public hearing Monday morning.

READ MORE about it on the county's economic-development website>

 



2022 ELECTION REPORT

13 running for school board; just 2 town contests

On Johnston County ballots for the May 17 elections are 13 candidates for three seats on the county's Board of Education, 25 candidates for one North Carolina seat in the United States Senate (11 Democrats, 14 Republicans), 13 candidates for the District 13 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives (5 Democrats, 8 Republicans), plus a number of other state and local contests.

At the same time, we've got 11 candidates for various local offices – all incumbents – who have filed without any opposition in this year's elections: Superior Court Judge Tom Lock, District Court Judge Joy Jones, District Attorney Susan Doyle, County Commissioners Butch Lawter and Dickie Braswell, Clerk of Superior Court Michelle Ball, Register of Deeds Craig Olive, Sheriff Steve Bizzell, Smithfield Mayor Andy Moore and Town Councilmen Marlon Lee and Travis Scott.

Meanwhile, three incumbent office holders – school board members Terri Sessoms and Board Chairman Todd Sutton along with Smithfield Town Councilman David Stevens – are not seeking re-election.

While candidates in most contested races must first win nomination in separate Democratic and Republican primary elections in May (runoffs in June if necessary), the 13 candidates in the nonpartisan school-board primary are seeking to be among the top six finishers who'll make the ballot for November's General Election.

There's a Republican primary contest for the District 5 seat on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, but the winner will face no opposition in November since no Democrat filed for that position.

Smithfield's  nonpartisan municipal election – postponed from last November because of delayed U.S. Census results that could have affected voting districts (but didn't) – will produce immediate winners of two contested Town Council seats. As a result, they will begin their new terms of office in June along with the uncontested candidates for two other council seats and the mayor's chair.

If you're not yet registered to vote in Johnston County, you have until April 22 to sign up at the Board of Elections office on South Second Street in Smithfield.



FINAL LIST OF FILINGS for contested seats in districts
that include Smithfield (excluding statewide contests):

D denotes Democrat, R denotes Republican
asterisk (*) denotes incumbent


Smithfield Town Council
voting restricted to residents of each district
District 2 (South Smithfield) – Sloan Stevens, Chestnut Drive
                                                Elizabeth Anne Temple, Chestnut Drive
District 4 (West Smithfield)  –  David Barbour (*), Whitley Drive
                                                Doris Louise Wallace, Roderick Drive


Johnston County Board of Education
Stuart Ashby Lee, S. Second Street, Smithfield
Rick Mercier, Fireweed Place, Clayton
Terry Tippett, Simon Road, Middlesex (O'Neals Township)
Joe Preston, Carissa Drive, Smithfield
Melissa Bowers, Glamorgan Drive, Clayton
Kevin Donovan, Stevens Sausage Road, Smithfield
George M. Brewer, Bonnie Avenue, Smithfield
Jenn Gurley, Castleberry Road, Clayton
Jennifer Slabaugh, Jacobs Court, Archer Lodge
Aldostin Byrd (*), P.O. Box, Clayton
Mark Lane, Yelverton Grove Road, Smithfield
John Fischer, Norwood Drive, Clayton
Michelle Antoine, Plaza De Luke Square, Claytron

Johnston County Board of Commissioners

District 5 seat – Patrick Harris (*) (R), Crescent Drive, Smithfield
                          Jyl Burgener (R), Aviary Court, Clayton (Cleveland Township)

U.S. House of Representatives, District 13
Wiley Nickel (D), Raleigh
Nathan Click (D), Raleigh
Denton Lee (D), Killarney Lane, Clayton
Sam Searcy (D), Holly Springs
Ms. Jamie Campbell Bowles (D), Salemburg

DeVan Barbour IV (R), P.O. Box, Benson
Chad Slotta (R), Holly Springs
Kelly Kathleen Daughtry (R), P.O. Box, Smithfield
Kent Keirsey (R), Chapel Hill
Bo HInes (R), Winston-Salem
Jessica Morel (R), Fayetteville
Renee Elmers (R), Dunn
Kevin Alan Wolff (R), Apex


N.C. Senate, District 10
Gettys Cohen Jr. (D), Aspen Drive, Smithfield
Jill Homan (R), Heart Wood Court, Archer Lodge
Matt Ansley (R), Fawn Lane, Archer Lodge
Benton Sawrey (R), Riverglade Drive, Clayton

N.C. House of Representatives, District 28
Wendy Ella May (D), P.O. Box, Micro

Larry C. Strickland (*) (R), P.O. Box, Pine Level
James Davenport (R), Harvey Road, Kenly

Superior Court Judge, District 11B (new Johnston County seat)
Paul A. Holcombe (R), P.O. Box, Clayton
Steven Walker (R), McCormick Drive, Selma

District Court Judge (Johnston County seat)
Travis Wheeler (R), P.O. Box, Smithfield
Charlene B. Nelson (R), Charleston Drive, Clayton

District Court Judge (Harnett-Lee seat)
Jason P. Kimble (R), Lillington
Brian E. Lewis (R), Sanford

VIEW the list of all candidates for local, regional, and statewide offices that will appear on Johnston County ballots May 17>
 


CORONAVIRUS REPORT

"Good news: Things are looking much better"

That was the opening statement from a relieved Dr. Marilyn Pearson, the county's public-health director, in her monthly report to County Commissioners on Monday.

Johnston County saw more than 12,000 new cases of COVID-19 in January reduced to less than 3,000 in February, while Johnston's infection rate per 100,000 persons has dropped from more than 1,000 a month ago to 202 in the latest reporting period, Dr. Pearson told the board.

More good news: Johnston had fewer than 10 COVID-related admissions to hospitals last week, with less than 10% of all hospital patients undergoing COVID treatments. "We're in the yellow right now," Dr. Pearson said, with Johnston's COVID-positive testing rate down to 6% from 30% a month ago, which classified us as a "red" county.


This morning's report from Johnston County Public Schools showed 18 active cases among students and 4 among staffs, slightly up from a total of 19 last week. Just 2 active cases were reported among students and staff at schools in our immediate area – one at Wilson's Mills Elementary, the other at Smithfield Middle.

VIEW the school system's COVID dashboard with data for all schools>

And for the record: Johnston's Board of Education voted at Tuesday's monthly meeting to keep in place the mask optional policy for students and staff in schools and on buses, this time with board member Kay Carroll joining his colleagues in support after he cited data that moves Johnston County out of a category of "high" COVID spread. (Last year's General Assembly enacted a state law requiring school boards to vote on the mask issue at least once a month.)

 

CORONAVIRUS
weekly
measurements
Case total
since 3-20 
(last week)
Deaths
since 3-20 
(last week)
Hospital
patients

(last week) 
Fully vaccinated *
[got boosters]
JOHNSTON COUNTY 56,101
( 55,752)
436
(434)
9
(17)
112,319: 54%**
[40,000]
NORTH CAROLINA 2,604,971
(2,592,991)
22,864
(22,671)
1,093
(1,461)
6,431,148: 61%**
[3,183,855]
UNITED STATES 79,406,602
(79,143,885)
963,819
(954,519)
  216,355,844: 66%**
WORLDWIDE 451,853,411
(441,139,258)
6,024,492
(5,977,162)
  10,649,012,600
total doses
* 2 doses Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or 1 dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
** Percentage of total population (all ages)

Data provided by: County of Johnston at 4:45 p.m. March 8
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:05 p.m. March 9
Johns Hopkins University at 8:21 a.m. March 10

VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics in Johnston County>
VIEW the current list of testing sites in Johnston County>

 
SUSAN
LASSITER

Smithfield
real-estate broker
919-669-9235

LassiterSusan@aol.com


Keeping schools up with growth: $720 million

That's the estimated cost of building six new schools, expanding six others, and other "infrastructure/modernization improvements" to keep up with Johnston County's predicted population surge over the next 10 years.

Brooks Moore, the school system's chief of facilities and construction, presented that staff recommendation to Johnston's Board of Education Tuesday, based on a recent report from OREd, the county's long-time consultant on future school needs.

The "greatest need" in the immediate future, Mr. Brooks said, is a new high school in the Wilson's Mills-Powhatan area followed by new elementary schools in the vicinity of Swift Creek Middle School in Cleveland Township, an area between Clayton's Cooper and Riverwood schools, in the Reedy Creek area, and the East Clayton-Archer Lodge area, plus a new middle school near the new Thanksgiving Elementary School east of Clayton.

Mr. Moore said 22 of Johnston's present-day schools are "over capacity" for students, 13 are "at capacity," while just 10 have room for more students. As a result, Johnston has 186 mobile units for students in 201 classrooms, he said.

"We have to do something substantial because the growth is substantial," he told the board, noting that Johnston will have a "shortage of seats" for students that will exceed 9,000 by 2029 unless proposed new facilities are built.

Board member Kay Carroll, who heads a committee working with county commissioners on the size of a school-bond issue to put before Johnston's voters in the November General Election, said $250 million seems to be a starting point in those discussions. Reaching that $720-million mark, he said, is "not going to be done overnight," which means voters will be asked to approve additional bond issues before the decade's end.

Meanwhile, there's another avenue for raising part of that funding:



$150 million sought from state for school needs

The state's 2021-22 budget adopted by the N.C. General Assembly includes $395 million for public-school construction projects. Johnston County is applying for more than $150 million of what's available statewide.

Johnston's County Commissioners agreed Monday to put up more than $22.5 million in required local matching funds – in case Johnston's full request is granted.

"Clearly we're not going to get all that," said Commissioner Fred Smith, a former state legislator. He asked who would make the decision about which of Johnston's eight projects would be funded if only part of the county's request wins approval.

Brooks Moore, chief of facilities and construction for Johnston County Public Schools, said the projects will be submitted in separate grant applications. The state will decide which of those, if any, merit approval – "needs based," he said.

Johnston County's request includes the following projects listed in the order presented to commissioners (estimated cost includes state grant plus local match):

Cleveland High School – 24-classroom addition, $17,460,000.
Smithfield-Selma High School – auditorium expansion, $9,450,000.
Cooper Academy (elementary school in Clayton) – complete replacement of
  existing classroom facilities with a single new building, $30,000,000.
Cleveland Middle School – 16-classroom addition, $10,500,000.
Benson Elementary – 12-classroom addition, $9,460,000.
Four Oaks Middle – 18-classroom addition, $14,250,000.
Corinth-Holders Elementary – 10-classroom addition, $7,780,000.
Princeton Elementary – 12-classroom addition, $11,000,000.

Mr. Moore told commissioners a decision on the county's request should come in mid-April since grant applications must be submitted to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction by March 15.


COVID-RELATED RENTAL ASSISTANCE NEARS END OF THE LINE

Also at Monday's morning session, the County Commissioners approved Finance Director Chad McLamb's recommendation to stop accepting applications at 5 p.m. this Friday for the county's Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program since Johnston's allocation of $11.3 million in federal aid is about to be exhausted. He said more than 2,000 Johnston households will have received aid once all payments have been distributed.

Even so, the county continues to offer aid for mortgage assistance, with $571,000 of $900,000 allotted to Johnston distributed so far, Mr. McLamb reported. Both programs were set up to help households hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.


Summaries of all matters considered by the Board of Commissioners at Monday's two sessions are posted on the county's website>
 



As the seasons change,
so do the signs in yards
of our satisfied customers.

www.CallPernell.com

 


WHAT'S COMING UP?

Daylight Saving Time returns Sunday

It's time to "Spring Forward" by setting your timepieces ahead one hour Saturday night so you'll be on time for church Sunday morning (March 13). "Fall Back" to Standard Time won't return until the first Sunday in November – eight months from now.

County Commissioners schedule retreat at Campbell

The board's Strategic Planning Session will be conducted next Thursday and Friday (March 17-18) at 10 a.m. both days in Marshbanks Hall on the campus of Campbell University in Buies Creek (143 Main Street). Limited seating will be available for the public, yet the sessions will be live-streamed on the county's YouTube channel>
 


 

DEATHS & FUNERALS

Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home

DAVID KEITH DANIELS, 54 – died March 5

ANTHONY (TONY) CRAIG ROBERTSON, 80 – died March 5

LEOLA MAE ROBINSON SANDERS, 100 – died March 3

DOROTHY ANN LASSITER BLACKMON, 95 – died March 2

 


THE PRICE OF RUSSIA'S INVASION OF UKRAINE
Gasoline selling here for more than four dollars a gallon?! This Tuesday afternoon scene at convenience stores near Market Street's interchange with I-95 looks like something from California or New York or some other place where these prices are historically much higher than what we're used to. The question on everyone's mind is how long will this international political (and economic) crisis go on?


A WORD (OR TWO) FROM THE EDITOR

Another industry incentive without public perusal

Johnston's County Commissioners on Monday approved another tax-rebate agreement to secure a new industry following a public hearing that drew no comments from the public.

But what else would you expect since the hearing's public notice put out last week omitted the project's details. All it gave us was less than transparent verbage about an unnamed company proposing to build an "industrial logistics facility in the Banner Township of Johnston County."

We didn't know until Monday's hearing that Edgewater Ventures, in return for county property-tax rebates of 50% over five years, plans to invest $38 million in a 500,000-square-foot building at Benson by the end of 2023 and employ 300 persons by the end of 2026 with salaries reaching Johnston's average of $43,000.

As is the case with all such incentive agreements, it's unlikely anyone would have turned up at Monday's hearing to object to the promise of that many good-paying jobs coming to Johnston County.

Still, the public ought to know exactly what its elected leaders are considering before they act, rather than learn about the particulars after the deal is done.

I've heard the official defense of the current practice time and again – that secrecy is required for successful negotiations to land an industrial prospect in a highly competitive market. But wouldn't democracy be better served if the commissioners' approval of these contracts required a second vote for final ratification, perhaps 30 days or so after the public hearing?


A chance to have your say on two plans in the making

"Walkability" is the word associated with a nationwide movement to make things safer – and more enjoyable – for pedestrians and bicyclists (like me). Both the Town of Smithfield and the County of Johnston have studies going on now to see what you and I want done about it locally, including online surveys with looming deadlines:

Smithfield Pedestrian Plan – March 14 (next Monday) is the deadline for completing a survey to see which projects are most favored (attendance was sparse at a couple of public forums on proposals being considered).
Here's another chance to put in your two cents' worth>

Clayton-Smithfield Neuse River Trail Connection – March 25 is the deadline to register your preferences for this envisioned project, which would close the gap between existing paved riverwalks at Smithfield and Clayton.
Project details along with access to the survey are posted on a NCDOT website>

 

For more than 30 years the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County has organized this event to raise money for scholarships awarded to deserving graduates of Johnston County's high schools as well as students attending Johnston Community College – more than a million dollars' worth since the event's establishment.

This year's event will be held FRIDAY, APRIL 8 at the Country Club of Johnston County.

If you'd like to participate as a supporting sponsor or a player, contact Tournament Chair Joy Callahan: 919-818-7376; e-mail
jtc93@ymail.com>


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