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PUBLISHED ONLINE APRIL 21, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 16

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


Early voting for May 17 Primary starts next week

You may vote early next Thursday (April 28) through May 14 at the First Baptist Church Ministry Center at 125 South Fourth Street in Smithfield, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Other early-voting sites in Johnston County are the Archer Lodge Community Building on Buffalo Road, C3 Church on Cleveland Road, and the Church at Clayton Crossings on US 70 Business.

The Johnston County Board of Elections has posted sample ballots on its website. Because of various electoral districts for federal, state, and municipal offices, the ballots are tailored for individual precincts, so you'll have to click on a particular link to view your ballot. Our four precincts are numbered PR 26 (East Smithfield), PR27a (North Smithfield 1), PR27b (North Smithfield 2), and PR28 (South Smithfield).
VISIT the county Board of Elections website to view the sample-ballot links>
If you're not sure which precinct is yours, click on this link to access the State Board of Elections Polling Place Locator>


JCCollege President David Johnson resigns

Johnston Community College's leader announced his resignation in an e-mail sent "to campus" last Friday: "After serving as JCC’s president for the last 13 years, it is with mixed emotions that I announce I will be stepping down from my position May 15, 2022. While I am excited to pursue new opportunities ahead, I am able to look back with satisfaction on the work we have done together to chart a pathway to success for the thousands of students who have benefited from JCC’s educational programs."

In the e-mail, Dr. Johnson touted accomplishments during his tenure, including:
• New and renovated facilities: Health Building, Learning Resource Building, and Student Success Center.
• New program offerings: Supply Chain Management, LPN, Digital Media, Cybersecurity, and Entrepreneurship.
• Fund-raising that has pushed the JCC Foundation's endowment above $10 million. Presently under construction is an Engineering Building that will enable expansion of that curriculum program, he noted.

"And together, we have weathered the uncertainties and difficulties... brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic... with fortitude and resilience," he said. "JCC is stronger now than ever before."

Lyn Austin, chair of the JCC Board of Trustees, said finding a college president is "the most important work a Board of Trustees undertakes." For that task, she said, "we will be seeking input from our faculty, staff, students, business stakeholders, and community to find just the right person for this wonderful college. We will cast a wide net, in and outside North Carolina, to get the best possible candidate."

JCC's Engineeering Building is under construction near the campus entrance off Smithfield's East Market Street just west of I-95.



National Science Foundation boosts Bio Blend program

Johnston Community College has been awarded a $635,012 grant from the National Science Foundation to expand its Bio Blend program.

A previous National Science Foundation award received by the college funded the pilot Bio Blend project that was so successful that the college and local industry partners saw the need to expand the program.

Bio Blend 2.0 aims to provide the unique curriculum to all Applied Engineering and Bioprocess Technology degree students instead of a just a small cohort. The project will also address the need to increase diversity and inclusion in the STEM field with a specific emphasis on individuals with autism.

Another aspect of the program is that DeltaV training will be embedded into the curriculum. DeltaV is the distributed control system used by many biotech companies. JCC already offers certification in DeltaV operations.

Report shows JCC's impact on the region's economy

A new, in-depth economic impact analysis found that Johnston Community College has a $138.7-million annual impact on the regional economy, supporting 2,774 jobs each year – one out of every 29 jobs in Johnston County.

High-demand career pathways quantified in the report include jobs and programs related to truck-driver training, nursing, paralegal technology, bio-process technology, and engineering. Copies of JCC’s economic impact studies, fact sheets, and summaries can be found online a

South Smithfield Elementary's new front door
After a year's worth of construction, flat roofs atop older portions of the school have been replaced with pitched metal roofs (painted blue like the new metal roof atop Smithfield-Selma High School) and there's a striking new covered entryway that welcomed students for the first time this week after Spring Break. The project's price tag of $1,480,000 was financed by the bond issue approved by Johnston's voters in 2018. The original portion of the school was finished in 1957.

County approves immediate employee pay raises

Not waiting for adoption of a new budget this July, Johnston's County Commissioners agreed Monday to raise pay grades for many county employees right away in light of an increasingly competitive labor market coupled with inflation.

Presenting that recommendation following a study of how Johnston County's salaries match up with public salaries elsewhere, Human Resources Director Lu Hickey told commissioners that adjusting pay scales here is "critical, as the market is continually changing."

Not every county employee will get an immediate pay raise, she said, but most will; and some will be "significantly impacted." (County Manager Rick Hester told the Sun later that double-digit percentages will apply to some of the raises.)

Cost of the adjustments is estimated at $6.5 million annually, with about $600,000 of that to be reimbursed by the state for certain positions, Ms. Hickey said.

"I know we are behind" other counties, said Commissioner Dickie Braswell, "especially in Environmental Health" where vacancies are delaying the county's approval of building permits. "I think it's imperative that we act," he declared.

The commissioners' resolution authorizing immediate pay adjustments includes a provision that reviews of county employees' pay grades must take place more frequently, with half the positions evaluated every other year from now on.

Two more Broadband proposals get county's backing
Commissioners agreed to endorse applications from two more companies – Conterra Networks and Lumos/NorthState – that are seeking state grants of $4 million to expand Internet Broadband into under-served rural areas. The board last month pledged up to $1 million in county aid to the provider that wins an N.C. GREAT grant for its Johnston County project. BrightSpeed and Charter (Spectrum) got that commitment from commissioners last month. Conterra, by the way, currently provides high-speed Internet service to Johnston's public schools.

"Trusted by families since 1977"
840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. • 919-934-7164 •


Number of school cases far below winter's peak

This morning's report from Johnston County Public Schools showed 7 active COVID-19 cases among students and 3 among staffs – the fewest total reported to date as schools returned from Spring Break. A month ago the total was 18, two months ago 60. Mid-January's total of student and staff cases approached 500. None of this week's cases were reported from Smithfield-area schools.

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

VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics in Johnston County>

VIEW the current list of testing sites in Johnston County>


Case total
since 3-20 
(prev. week)
since 3-20 
(prev. week)

(prev. week)
Fully vaccinated *
[got boosters]
( 59,452)
113,181:  54%**
6,482,692: 62%**
UNITED STATES 80,773,277
WORLDWIDE 506,587,543
total doses
* 2 doses Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or 1 dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
** Percentage of total population (all ages)

*** Weekly average through last Friday (numbers for counties not reported)
Data from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:20 p.m. April 20
and Johns Hopkins University at 2:20 p.m. April 20



Third StrEATery outdoor dining returns this Friday

The Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation is once again hosting the event on the 100 block of South Third Street, where folks can get a takeout order from one of several nearby restaurants and eat at tables set up in the street and listen to music by a group called GrassStreet, which performs original material and Bluegrass standards. The event, continuing from 6 to 9 p.m., will be held once a month from now through September. (DSDC photo below)

Saturday is Litter Sweep Day here and elsewhere in N.C.

It's an annual volunteer-based project spearheaded by the N.C. Department of Transportation, but other organizations are encouraged to host various clean-up activities in their communities. The Town of Smithfield, for one, is asking folks to come out from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. to help pick up litter at three locations: Sarah Yard Community Center on East Lee Street, Bob Wallace Jaycee Kiddie Park on South Second Street, and Smithfield Community Park beside SSS High School. Also, the County of Johnston is waiving fees this Saturday for groups and individuals that transport trash to its landfill off NC 210 west of Smithfield.

Town Council budget sessions Monday and Tuesday

The Smithfield council will begin work on the town's 2022-23 budget during public meetings scheduled at 6:30 p.m. this Monday and Tuesday at Town Hall. Tuesday's session will center on requests from various non-profit organizations seeking appropriations during the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

Two more weeks till Ham & Yam Festival's return

The 36th edition will return to streets of Downtown Smithfield on Saturday, May 7 after a three-year hiatus because of COVID-19. Featured entertainers on the Neuse River Amphitheater stage this year are Country Music singer and songwriter Paige King Johnson at 2:30 p.m. followed by the Original Rhondels at 4:30. Their performances will be free of admission charge. For more information, check out the festival's page on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau website>



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

BARRY EUGENE THORNTON, 57 – died April 19




GEORGE ALLEN SELLERS, 86 – died April 6


Bereavement camp offered for youngsters 6-17

Applications are now being accepted for Johnston Health’s Camp Courage, a bereavement camp for children ages 6 to 17. The camp will operate 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 11 at The Pond at Lazy O Farm on Olive Road south of Smithfield.

The camp is for any child who has experienced the death of someone close, such as a parent, grandparent, sibling, or friend. There is no fee to attend.

Activities will include music, games, and expressive art activities. The staff is made up of nurses, chaplains, social workers, and bereavement counselors, all of whom have been trained to work with children and teens.

To register, telephone April Barbour-Matthews at 919-209-3478 or e-mail

In the photo, s
ocial worker Hiede Erickson teaches children how to make memory sticks during a session of Camp Courage in 2016. She is among the Johnston Health teammates returning for this year’s camp. (Johnston Health story & photo)



Earth Day, Arbor Day: what's the difference?

April 22 (this Friday) will be observed as Earth Day, a grassroots movement that began across our nation in 1970. It led to creation of the Environmental Protection Agency later that year and subsequent passage by Congress of other environmental protection laws including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and more.

Earth Day went global in 1990, according to the movement's official website>

And today its observance takes on more importance as we come to grips with Climate Change.

Arbor Day, which focuses on trees and the planting of new ones, doesn't fall on the same day as Earth Day, although it's close. Nationally, the preferred Arbor Day observance is the last Friday in April, which this year falls on the 29th (next week).

But in North Carolina, it's observed in March, according to N.C. State University's Extension Service which explains on its website: "M
ost states observe a separate Arbor Day on a date of their choosing in accordance with the best tree-planting times. In North Carolina, we celebrate Arbor on the first Friday following March 15" (which means it fell on March 18 this year).

Planting trees remains an important element of Earth Day activities, but what's becoming more urgent is our willingness to wean our lifestyles away from wasteful and destructive practices headed by our dependence on fossil fuels.

Hard to do? Yes, especially in light of international political turmoil spotlighted by the current crisis in Ukraine. But take action we must if we're truly serious about leaving behind a better world for our children and grandchildren.


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