ONLINE MARCH 4, 2021 • VOL. 3,
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
School board votes 5-1 to appoint
SSS grad Al Byrd to vacated seat
The six seated members of the Johnston County Board of Education interviewed six candidates on Monday who had been chosen from 31 applicants for a seat on the board that was vacated by Tracie Zukowski's resignation last month.
The board re-convened late Wednesday afternoon to make its choice. Chairman Todd Sutton announced that members would vote by written ballot for any candidates receiving a nomination. Ronald Johnson nominated Terry Tippett. Mike Wooten nominated Al Byrd. With no other nominations to consider, five members voted for Mr. Byrd, one for Mr. Tippett.
The meeting was adjourned five minutes after it started.
Mr. Byrd will serve the remaining 21 months of Ms. Zukowski's term (she was elected in November 2018 but had to give up her seat after moving to Brunswick County). Mr. Byrd's seat and two others --- held by Mr. Sutton and Terri Sessoms --- will be up for election in November 2022.
Lyn Andrews, Kay Carroll, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Wooten won election to four-year terms this past November.
Mr. Byrd is a 1986 graduate of Smithfield-Selma High School who won a scholarship to play football at N.C. State University. After graduation he taught and coached in the Durham Public Schools System, taught in Wake Community College's Adult High School, then worked as a program coordinator for the NCSU Educational Talent Search Program in Wilson County. Since 2013 he has served as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chaplain with the NCSU football team.
Since 1999 Mr. Byrd and his wife Kimberly, a Johnston County school teacher from 2001 to 2018, have resided in the Cleveland community. Both of his daughters are graduates of Cleveland High School.
In 2016 Mr. Byrd was inducted into the Johnston County Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame --- an honor he called "an unforgettable life moment" in his application for the school-board seat.
SCHOOL BOARD'S MONTHLY MEETING NEXT TUESDAY
VIEW the agenda once it's posted on the school system's website>
The meeting will be live-streamed on the schools' YouTube channel>
Health director says "we are looking better"
even as Johnston's death toll keeps rising
Public Health Director Marilyn Pearson told County Commissioners this week that Johnston has been "upgraded" from "Critical Community Spread" (Red) to "Substantial Community Spread" (Orange) by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services since the county's "positivity rate" from 4,000 or so COVID-19 tests per week has dropped to 6.7% while the number of Johnstonians hospitalized for serious coronavirus complications is also coming down.
Johnston County reported 867 active COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday (Wednesday's daily report was not posted "due to unforeseen circumstances"):
840 recovering at home plus 27 in hospitals. That's a significant drop from 1,093 active cases a week ago. And yet, the coronavirus death toll here continues to climb, with 10 more fatalities reported this past week (see table below for more details).
Dr. Pearson told commissioners on Monday that Johnston's Health Department has a "baseline" allocation of 1,900 COVID-19 vaccine doses weekly along with another 200 "equity" doses released by the state. The department is sharing doses with local pharmacies and primary-care providers, Dr. Pearson noted.
Another drive-through vaccination clinic on Wednesday at West Johnston High School provided first doses to 1,556 recipients who waited in line without appointments. Meanwhile, the Health Department is giving both first and second doses by appointment Monday-Friday, Dr. Pearson told commissioners.
26,246 Johnstonians have received first doses of COVID-19 vaccines since mid-December, with second doses given to another 14,143, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported on Wednesday.
VISIT this official state web page to find upcoming vaccination locations>
Johnston County Public Schools reported 47 active cases among students, up from 44 a week ago --- and 16 among employees, up from 13 a week ago --- as of mid-afternoon Wednesday. The number of active quarantines among students has risen slightly, from 529 last week to 548 this week, while the number of quarantines among school employees declined just a bit, from 102 to 99.
VIEW real-time updates on the schools' COVID-19 Dashboard>
VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>
Spartan footballers kick off the season at Smithfield-Selma High's Charles Tucker Stadium with cheerleaders, pep band, and a limited number of fans looking on.
(Screenshot from SSS live-stream on Facebook)
SSS wins football opener for its new coach
It was an uplifting debut for Deron Donald, the new football coach at Smithfield-Selma High School, which has struggled to win games on the gridiron in recent years. Playing at home, the Spartans scored four touchdowns to defeat the team from Western Harnett by a score of 28-12 last Thursday night.
Junior Clevonte Watson ran for 115 yards on 18 carries and scored two of the SSS touchdowns. Senior Devon Roesch scored the other two Spartan touchdowns on passes from junior George Brewer, who completed seven of 12 attempts for a total of 123 yards.
SSS out-rushed Western Harnett in the ground game 157 yards to 68. Western Harnett had 90 yards passing.
Junior Luke Jenkins was good on all four extra-point kicks after the SSS touchdowns.
Smithfield-Selma travels to North Johnston High School this Friday for its second contest in a seven-game regular season. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Game reports are gathered from MaxPreps>
January was wet; February even wetter
Cornell Cox reports that his Backyard Weather Station in South Smithfield recorded measurable rainfall on 15 of February's 28 days, producing a total of 7.63 inches for the month. On top of an above-normal 6.84 inches in January, that brings our total since the start of 2021 to 14.47 inches. Last year we had 76.2 inches in 12 months --- well above our average of just under 48 inches. Are he headed there again?
Below is the National Weather Service graph showing the Neuse River's sustained flooding that will continue for several more days --- apparently the result of a stepped-up release of water backed up in Falls Lake north of Raleigh. The solid blue line is the actual depth measurement; the dotted line to the right is what's projected during the days ahead. The yellow zone on the chart indicates "minor" flooding; the river's "flood stage" at Smithfield begins at 15 feet.
VIEW the latest reading, updated frequently>
GALILEE ROAD RE-OPENS WITH A NEW BRIDGE IN PLACE
It replaces a culvert over Arters Creek undermined by flash flooding the night of August 31 that pushed a vehicle driven by her mother with two small children swiftly downstream. Despite frantic efforts by first responders, the two children were swept away and drowned, but their mother was saved. Along with an accelerated project to get the new bridge built --- at a cost of $ 1.1 million --- the N.C. Department of Transportation has converted the nearby intersection of Galilee and Packing Plant roads to a four-way stop.
SMITHFIELD COUNCIL, COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
HELD FIRST-OF-THE-MONTH MEETINGS THIS WEEK
Here are links to the Sun's reports from those sessions:
County Commissioners met twice on Monday>
Town Council met Tuesday evening>
DEATHS & FUNERALS
Each week we post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We monitor the websites of local funeral homes to compile our list, and we welcome links provided by readers to obituaries of persons with Smithfield connections who have died outside our immediate area....
ESTEEN REGISTER ALLEN, 83 - died March 1
ROCHESTER (ROY) ELLIS, 59 - died March 1
FREIDA FAYE HICKS, 59 - died March 1
ELMO ARCHIBALD JR., 84 - died February 25
WANDA HAGWOOD TUCKER, 63 - died February 20
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS
A FORGOTTEN LANDMARK FROM MID-20th CENTURY
This barn beside US 70 west of the Neuse River bridge housed the business of J. Noah "Hog" Williams. A Smithfield Herald story announced the opening of the "Hog Market" in June 1941. (Heritage Center photo posted this week by Warren Grimes on Facebook page entitled "You know you're from Smithfield NC if....")
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LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION?
Up-to-data Johnston County data
along with useful community links are
on the Smithfield-Selma Sun website>