The Sun will take a Fourth of July break next week
Since next week is the traditional peak of our region's summertime vacation season, the Weekly Sun won't be published and e-mailed to subscribers next Thursday, July 7. Look for the next edition two weeks from now: on Thursday, July 14.
Town approves big pay raises for all employees
To make salaries more competitive with nearby local governments, and also to offset a nationwide outbreak of inflation, the Smithfield Town Council this week approved a staff recommendation to raise employees for all town employees far beyond what's normal – as much as 15% for police officers and no less than 9% for everyone else, effective with August paychecks.
That decision put in place the last piece of the town's budget for fiscal 2022-23, which begins July 1 (this Friday). The council adopted the spending plan without dissent Monday night.
"Police (pay) is our biggest issue – there's no doubt about it," said Town Manager Mike Scott, who pointed out that the town has been coping with seven vacancies in police-officer positions for some time, and now there are five "pending retirements."
A similar challenge exists in the Electric Department. "These people are also in extremely short supply," Mr. Scott noted. As a result, the plan approved Monday raises pay for the town's electrical linemen by 15%, with a similar raise for Water and Sewer employees.
Mr. Scott said he anticipates the plan will raise starting pay for new full-time workers to $16.87 an hour while the minimum for part-time employees like lifeguards at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center (SRAC) will rise to $10 an hour.
Funding for the unusual size of the town's annual pay adjustment was made available by this month's payoff of remaining loans on the SRAC's construction augmented by a shift of major capital expenditures from the General Fund to Smithfield's allocation of funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Those expenditures add up to $1,283,500 for a new "heavy rescue" vehicle for the Fire Department, a new collection truck for Sanitation, and four new police cars. Previously the town earmarked $609,000 of ARPA money to help pay for expansion of police headquarters and $170,000 to correct a drainage issue on Cedar Drive. All that leaves an uncommitted balance of $2,075,786 in the town's ARPA account.
VIEW complete details of the town's budget for fiscal 2022-23>
New budget keeps tax rates unchanged, raises utility fees
The town's overall property-tax rate of 57 cents per $100 valuation remains the same, as does the 19-cent raise for the Downtown service district and the 12-cent rate for the Smithfield Fire District outside the town's corporate limits.
Electricity rates remain unchanged for another year, keeping Smithfield's residential rates lowest among the region's power providers.
Driven by rate increases adopted by the County of Johnston for the year ahead, Smithfield's new budget includes a 4% hike in monthly sewer-service fees starting September 1 and a 45-cent increase in monthly garbage-collection fees starting October 1. (The county charges Smithfield and other municipalities for sewage treatment and disposal of refuse at its landfill.)
Other rate increases approved by the Town Council this week affect rental and activity fees charged by Parks and Recreation and grave-opening fees at the newer portion of Riverside Cemetery.
VIEW the town's updated schedule of fees for all services and activities>
This broken stretch of North Street beside Oakland Cemetery is one of just eight block-long projects covered by this year's allocation of state Powell Bill funds.
Council awards contract for limited street resurfacing
Overriding a staff recommendation to spend all the town's current Powell Bill allocation on a half-mile repaving of Outlet Center Drive, the council on Monday approved instead a contract to resurface eight sections of half a dozen residential streets: the 700 block of East Street, the 400 and 500 blocks of McCullers Street, the 700 block of Hancock Street, the 400 and 900 blocks of North Street, the 100 block of Bridge Street, and the 100 block of East Holding Street.
Tripp Brothers Inc. of Ayden was low bidder for that work at $183,640.73. Tripp was also low bidder at $181,275.70 for the Outlet Center project, which included "milling down" two inches of the existing asphalt before repaving. Each of those bids came close to the town's total resurfacing budget for the year (Powell Bill funds come from the state's gasoline tax, directed to municipalities for street maintenance).
Councilman Travis Scott said Powell Bill money should go for "residential maintenance" instead of a commercial avenue like Outlet Center Drive. He suggested the council explore other options for repairing that heavily traveled roadway.
Town Manager Mike Scott said Smithfield has 62 miles of streets "we're required to maintain" with the limited state funding. "Just about every city in the state has the same issue," he added.
CSX culvert replacement project moves forward
The council awarded a $193,700 contract to LJB Inc. of Garner to do the engineering work for enlarging the culvert under the CSX railroad east of South Bright Leaf Boulevard that has been blamed for flash floods damaging nearby businesses. The town has received a state grant of $950,000 to pay for the project, which is scheduled for completion within the next 12 months.
Town awards contract for grounds maintenance
The council awarded contracts totaling $103,199.94 to Lane Lawn Care of Smithfield for maintaining the town's parks and roadway rights of way during the next 12 months. A memo to the council said Lane was the only qualified bidder for the Parks and Recreation contract and submitted the lower of two bids on a contract to maintain roadside grounds such as traffic islands that are under care of the town's Public Works Department.
LAND FOR SALE
2.4-acre vacant lot at 1558 W. Market Street (US 70 Business) in West Smithfield. Mostly level with 323-foot road frontage. Less than 3 miles from Johnston Regional Airport, about 5 miles from I-95: $525,000 (MLS#2447472)
SUSAN LASSITER, Broker • FONVILLE MORISEY REALTY • 919-669-9235
School board transfers $8 million to capital budget
Now we have an explanation for the County Commissioners' omission from the 2022-23 county budget of Capital Outlay funding for Johnston's public schools:
The county's Board of Education during a special session on Wednesday transferred $8 million from unspent Current Expense funds into the school system's capital budget for the year ahead.
The board's resolution authorizing the transfer said the move was necessary for "a number of capital projects that have not begun construction because of insufficient capital funding due to the dramatic and unforeseen rise of costs as a result of historically high inflation."
The resolution went on to explain that the $8 million is available because of "unusually high, and temporary, lapsed salaries due to vacancies" among the school system's staff during fiscal year 2021-22 that ends today (June 30).
"Now we need to focus on our bond (issue)," said Chairman Todd Sutton following the school board's vote to transfer funds. "We need (new) schools more than ever," he said, taking note of the Town of Smithfield's recent approval of a 2,000-unit residential subdivision that could add 850 students to Johnston's schools.
The County Commissioners have authorized a $177-million school-bond issue to be put on the ballot for this November's General Election. School board members on Wednesday emphasized that a decision has not been made on specifics of projects to be financed if the bonds are approved.
Schools' insurance policies renewed for just 2% more
Also on Wednesday, the school board approved insurance-policy renewals adding up to $2,794,672 – an increase of $58,675, just 2%. Stephen Britt, the schools' chief of financial services, told the board a doubling of the cost of "cyber liability" coverage accounted for much of the rise in total premiums.
These front-yard signs
are endorsements you
can trust in all seasons.
Retail sales up 13.9% in latest quarterly report
Retail sales in Johnston County continued their recent double-digit percentage gain during the first quarter of 2022 when volume totaled $699,162,295 – an increase of 13.9% over the same period a year earlier, according to the latest report from the N.C. Department of Commerce. Quarterly gains of this magnitude are an indicator of Johnston County's recent surge in population, magnified by inflation.
Johnston's jobless rate rises slightly to 3.3%
The number of Johnstonians holding jobs in May – 103,241 – was almost the same as the number employed in April (103,245), but the number filing for unemployment benefits increased from 3,186 to 3,495, raising the county's unemployment rate from 3% to 3.3% (the statewide rate for May was 3.6%). Johnston's jobless rate for May last year was 4.5%.
VIEW the state's May report covering all of North Carolina's counties>
June has produced just 1.01 inches of rainfall
Cornell Cox reports from the Weekly Sun's "official: Backyard Weather Station in South Smithfield that measurable rainfall was recorded here on seven days this past month, yet the total from those "rain events" was a paltry 1.01 inches. That brings the total for the first half of 2022 to 16.57 inches. Normal annual rainfall for Smithfield is just under 48 inches, so we're not even halfway there yet.
WHAT'S COMING UP?
Downtown fireworks this Sunday, the 3rd of July
South Smithfield neighborhood hosting parade on the 4th
Another community event making a comeback from the coronavirus pandemic is the annual South Smithfield 4th of July Neighborhood Parade open to all comers and spectators regardless of place of residence. It begins at 10 a.m. Monday on Crescent Drive just south of Hood Street and features youngsters and adults wearing patriotic strollers and riding (or pushing) bicycles, wagons, and strollers. Cookies and lemonade will be provided by the neighborhood after the parade.
Town Council, County Commissioners taking next week off
Both the Smithfield Town Council and the Johnston County Board of Commissioners will forego their regularly scheduled first-of-the-month meetings next week in deference to the Fourth of July holiday. The Town Council will hold its July meeting on Tuesday the 12th while the County Commissioners are not scheduled to meet again until their regular third-Monday session on July 18. The agenda for the July 12 Town Council meeting should be posted next week on the town's website>
Heritage Center closing for a week to move Reading Room
The Johnston County Heritage Center will be closed to the public the week of July 11-16 while staff and volunteers relocate the center’s Reading Room from the third floor to the ground floor. Meanwhile, a new county history museum, slated to open in the fall, is in the process of being set up in a portion of the former Rose's building at 329 East Market Street. During the week's closing, Heritage Center staff will continue to assist the public with information by phone at 919-934-2836 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
DEATHS AND FUNERALS
A WORD (OR TWO) FROM THE EDITOR
"We hold these truths to be self-evident...."
In these days of unprecedented political turmoil (in our lifetimes, at least), a good starting place to reset our ideological compasses is a re-reading of this nation's Declaration of Independence – the reason we celebrate the Fourth of July.
Here's the full text of that sacred document (with punctuation and spelling of words following the original handwritten version):
In Congress, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
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