Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)

lighting up
for Christmas

At 6 o'clock in the evening on Tuesday the first day of December, Mayor Andy Moore and a jolly ole man in a red suit flipped a switch to light up the town's official Christmas tree positioned in the Public Library courtyard --- done this year without a public gathering as a "virtual event" on the town's Facebook page (as seen in this screenshot).

It was the first of several town-sponsored activities planned with COVID-19 restrictions in mind (no parade this year).

Next up: The Stink, Stank, Stunk Toy Drop Off from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday at the Recreation & Aquatics Center --- an opportunity for folks to bring in new, unwrapped toys for children served by Harbor and the Johnston County Department of Social Services. This event takes the place of the annual 5K Run and Jingle Bell Jog named "in honor" of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas (and then gave it back).

DETAILS about other upcoming events on>

Johnston's case total tops 8,000
after 500+ new cases added in a week

Johnston County continues to register weekly COVID-19 case increases not seen since the pandemic reached us last March. The Johnston County Health Department recorded 539 new cases over the past seven days.

The county issued these COVID-19 totals at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday:
8,069 cases, 79 deaths, 40 currently hospitalized + 1,435 at home for a total of 1,475 active cases (up from 1,349 a week ago).

VIEW the Johnston County COVID-19 Information page for more details>

The Smithfield ZIP Code (27577) continues to lead Johnston's other postal zones in per-capita concentration of cases with 475 per 10,000 residents over the past two weeks, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.



Posted at 9:28 a.m. today (Thursday):
STUDENT DATA: 440 cases suspected, presumptive, or confirmed among students who have returned to classrooms; 713 active quarantines including 1 at South Smithfield Elementary, 52 at West Smithfield Elementary, 5 at Smithfield Middle, 10 at Smithfield-Selma High --- total up 10 from 703 a week ago.
STAFF DATA: 84 cases suspected, presumptive, or confirmed among the system's 5,000 employees; 163 active quarantines including 1 at South Smithfield, 15 at West Smithfield, 0 at Smithfield Middle, 2 at Smithfield-Selma High --- total up 18 from 144 a week ago.

VIEW the JCPS COVID-19 Dashboard for more details>

Case total
since 3-20

(last week)
since 3-20
(last week)
In hospital
this week
(last week)
(last week)
ZIP CODE 27577








Information from County of Johnston at 5:00 p.m. Dec. 2; N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:10 p.m. Dec. 2; Johns Hopkins University at 9:28 a.m. Dec. 3.
* N.C. presumed recovered as of Monday, Nov. 30 (reported once each week).

VIEW the current list of COVID-19 test sites and testing events in all of Johnston>

Town Council awards construction contract
for expanding the Water Treatment Plant

After months of debate about the merits of the project, the Smithfield Town Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to move ahead with expansion of the town's Water Treatment Plant at North Second Street and Hospital Road.

Shook Construction Company, Inc. of Columbia, S.C. won the contract with the lowest of five bids at $11,650,000. After adding equipment, engineering services, and contingencies, the project's total cost is budgeted at $17,598,500.

Councilman John Dunn cast the lone dissenting vote on approving both the construction contract and the financing for it. Councilmen David Barbour, Steve Rabil, David Stevens, and Roger Wood voted in the affirmative. Councilmen Marlon Lee and Travis Scott were absent.

The project will expand the plant's treatment capacity from 6.2-million to 8.3-million gallons per day --- to handle anticipated residential and commercial growth in the region for years to come. "This can be achieved without raising rates," declared Ted Credle, the town's director of public utilities.

The bulk of the project's financing will come from a $12,050,000 state loan through the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, with a rate of interest not to exceed 1.82%. The County of Johnston has already contributed $3,250,000 to reserve a portion of the Smithfield plant's capacity for its customers (the county also produces water at its own plant on the Neuse River near Wilson's Mills). The remaining money required for the project consists of $1,948,500 from the town's Water Fund reserves plus $350,000 in the current year's budget for maintenance expenses that can be avoided with the water plant's upgrade.

Mr. Credle told the Sun that a start date for construction has yet to be determined, but it's likely to be March or April,"depending on product lead times and supply chains in the age of COVID-19." Construction would take 20-22 months to complete, he said.

Shown below is a rendering of how the water plant's "campus" will appear once a second in-ground "clearwell" tank (in gray) and a new storage basin are added along with several smaller structures. Nearby residents will hardly notice the changes, especially with evergreen trees to be planted as buffers on the south and east borders of the property (lower left). Vehicular access to the plant will come only via Hospital Road once Second Street is permanently closed north of North Street.

READ MORE news from Tuesday night's monthly council session>

real-estate broker


N.C. Supreme Court Justice recount altered
Johnston's votes by 13 out of 107,916 cast

When Johnston County's recount was finished on Monday, Republican Paul Newby had three more votes and Democrat Cheri Beasley 10 fewer votes than what was certified on November 13 --- 10 days after Election Day. Statewide, the recount produced a winning margin of just 401 votes for Mr. Newby.

The revised Johnston County totals: 65,515 for Mr. Newby, 42,401 for Ms. Beasley.
The latest statewide totals: 2,695,951 for Mr. Newby, 2,695,550 for Ms. Beasley.

That's about as close as it gets in any election with that many voters taking part.

Ms. Beasley, appointed Chief Justice by Governor Roy Cooper in March 2019, called for the statewide recount following the November 13 certification. In addition, she filed a protest regarding the handling of absentee and provisional ballots in most of the state's counties, including Johnston.

At a meeting November 24, Johnston's Board of Elections voted 3-2 to dismiss her protest here for lack of evidence showing wrongfully rejected ballots. Republican board members John Shallcross Jr. and Deborah Zink were joined by Democrat Shirley Bell in the vote for dismissal. Democrats Gordon Woodruff and Deborah Hooker had favored a failed motion to find "probable cause" for proceeding with a hearing on allegations from the Beasley campaign.

Even as the full statewide recount was completed this week, Ms. Beasley called for a "hand-eye recount" of a random sample of precincts in each of the state's 100 counties.

VIEW revised Johnston County vote totals for all offices as a result of the recount>

Lots of mistletoe
in our trees

Especially in older neighborhoods and near the river are clumps of mistletoe thriving in Smithfield's deciduous trees like this young oak near the front of the First Baptist Church on South Fourth Street.

Just one of many examples of Mother Nature's "decorations" for the season at hand.