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PUBLISHED ONLINE MAY 19, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 20

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

 

PRIMARY ELECTION REPORT

AND THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ARE . . .

Sloan Stevens won the South Smithfield seat on the Town Council in his first bid for elective office. He will succeed David Stevens, his uncle who chose not to seek re-election after serving one term.

David Barbour won re-election to a second term on the Town Council as West Smithfield's representative.

Mayor Andy Moore and Councilmen Marlon Lee (East Smithfield) and Travis Scott (North Smithfield) were
re-elected without opposition.

The five winners will begin their new terms at the end of this month.

Terry Tippett, Kevin Donovan, Michelle Antoine, Rick Mercier, Mark Lane, and Melissa Bowers were the top six finishers in the 13-candidate race for three seats on the Johnston County Board of Education and will advance to November's General Election. The only incumbent in Tuesday's contest – Al Byrd – finished ninth. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the school board a year ago.

Patrick Harris won election to a second term on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners as representative of District 5, which includes Smithfield. He along with Commissioners Dickie Braswell and Butch Lawter – all registered as Republicans – have no opposition in November's election since no Democrats filed for their seats.

Recently appointed Commissioner April Stephens, a Republican, will have opposition if the Johnston County Democratic Party Executive Committee submits a nominee before November's ballots are printed. Her appointment last month came after the filing period had ended for candidates competing in this year's elections.

Benton Sawrey won nomination in Tuesday's Republican Primary to a seat in the North Carolina Senate from a newly drawn district that encompasses Johnston County alone. He will face Democrat Gettys Cohen Jr. in the General Election.

Larry Strickland won nomination in the Republican Primary for re-election to the N.C. House of Representatives from a newly drawn district that encompasses all of Smithfield along with much of Johnston County to the east and south. He will face Democrat Wendy Ella May in November.

Paul Holcombe is the winner of a new Superior Court seat for Johnston County since he ran as a Republican without Democratic opposition in the 11th Judicial District, which encompasses Harnett and Lee counties as well as Johnston.

Travis Wheeler and Jason Kimble are winners of two District Court judgeships since they also ran as Republicans without Democratic opposition.

Bo Hines won nomination Tuesday as the Republican candidate and Wiley Nickel as the Democratic candidate in November's U.S. House of Representatives race within a new Congressional district that encompasses all of Johnston County and parts of Wake, Harnett, and Wayne.

In Tuesday's hotly contested Republican contest, Johnstonians DeVan Barbour finished second and Kelly Daughtry third among eight candidates (Mr. Barbour finished first among Johnston's voters). Here are results by county for the top three:

HINES
5,744 in Johnston + 8,028 in Wake + 1,984 in Harnett + 1,767 in Wayne = 17,523

BARBOUR
7,175 in Johnston + 2,512 in Wake + 1,644 in Harnett + 1,058 in Wayne = 12,389
DAUGHTRY
 3,437 in Johnston + 4,383 in Wake + 747 in Harnett + 689 in Wayne = 9,256


With Tuesday's results, Johnston County voters will be exempt from voting in North Carolina's Second Primary Election next month.

VISIT the Johnston County Board of Elections website to find updated results of all contests – statewide as well as local and regional – on Tuesday's ballots>

 



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Schools ask county for $11.5-million increase

That includes requested increases of almost $8.5 million for operations and a doubling of county appropriations for capital outlay in the year ahead. Approved last week without dissent by the Johnston County Board of Education, the 2022-23 proposed schools budget now goes to the County Commissioners, who will decide by the end of next month what amount will be included in the coming year's overall county budget.

Last year commissioners granted "full funding" of the school board's request for county assistance, but the $7.9-million increase wasn't approved until October – after the school board adopted a policy directed against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Johnston's public schools, with wording acceptable to commissioners.

What's behind the $8.5-million request for more county aid this coming year?

Stephen Britt, the school system's chief of finance, presented this breakdown to the Board of Education last week:

• $5,346,235 for raising county-paid salaries to match labor-market conditions. That includes a $17.50-per-hour minimum wage for bus drivers, $15.50 minimum for teacher assistants, $15 minimum for cafeteria workers, custodians, and clerical staff, plus another 1% added to the county's supplemental pay plan for teachers and 1.5% for teachers with master's degrees.

• $ 2,672,112 to cover inflation anticipated by department heads in the year ahead for fuel, utilities, replacement parts, and other items.

• $763,564 to cover the Sheriff's Department expense of employing SROs (school resource officers) assigned full-time to Johnston's public-school campuses. That expense has been absorbed by the Sheriff's Department up to now, Mr. Britt noted.

The finance director also pointed out that as much as $7.3 million of the requested $88,271,931 for county-paid operations would have to be dispersed among Johnston's publicly financed charter schools with the opening this summer of the new American Leadership Academy under construction between Smithfield and Clayton. (Presently funded through Johnston County Public Schools are Neuse Charter School in Smithfield and Johnston Charter Academy in Clayton.)

Chairman Todd Sutton emphasized the priority of raising pay for all school employees in the board's request for another large increase in county aid. "If our County Commissioners value every county employee," he said, referring to this month's upward adjustment of county pay scales, "we need to take care of our people as well."

Mr. Britt said the proposed budget maintains a fund balance of more than $22.5 million after removal of $8.5 million for some immediate building and repair needs not covered by the 2018 county bond issue. He said he fears "a huge fiscal cliff is looming" once the school system's federal COVID-relief funds are exhausted, coupled with inflationary market conditions "that continue to surprise us."

Furthermore, he said the state "has probably over-projected" an increase in Johnston's school enrollment – from 37,309 now to 38,482 next fall. If so, the state's funding allotment could be reduced mid-year, thereby squeezing the local budget, he warned.

Mr. Britt also pointed out that the proposed capital-outlay budget of $6,052,774 does not include an estimated $4.5 million to purchase future school sites.

Another add-on is renewal of last year's request for a commitment by the county to pay performance bonuses ranging up to $3,000 for teachers and $1,500 for support staff at low-performing schools that meet goals of academic improvement set by the state. The maximum potential payout for that would be $3,029,000 annually.

In approving the schools' budget request last week, six of seven board members took part in the "Zoom" meeting held remotely. Ronald Johnson was absent.

VIEW key points of last week's budget presentation to the Board of Education>


Here's one of two large buildings under construction on the American Leadership Academy campus beside US 70 Business near Whitley Heights. It will operate as Johnston County's third publicly funded charter school. Meanwhile, the state has received an application for yet another charter school in the vicinity – on a site just west of the interchange of US 70 Business and the Clayton Bypass.

 


 

County office study offers options for DSS site

Employed to assess County Government's needs for more office space beyond the new Detention and Public Safety centers under construction, Moseley Architects presented two options to Johnston's County Commissioners on Monday.

Both recommend construction of a new home for the Department of Social Services and a new warehouse for the Building & Grounds Department away from their present locations. Where the options differ is what to do with the Social Services campus of three "re-purposed" buildings beside North Street near the hospital.

The less expensive option would convert those facilities into county administrative offices presently housed in the Courthouse and leased properties nearby. Total estimated price tag: $84,284,169.

The more expensive option would be to sell the existing Social Services complex and construct a county Administration Building on whatever site is chosen for the new Social Services home. Total estimated price tag for that: $99,534,450.

Neither of those price tags include the cost of purchasing land for a new Social Services and Administration campus since a suitable site has not been identified, noted Josh Bennett of Moseley Architects.

Commissioners made no comments at Monday's session about the choices before them. But diverging opinions about the anticipated scenarios did arise during the board's recent planning retreat.

Commissioner Fred Smith declared his support for constructing all new buildings rather than renovating the Social Services structures for other agencies. "When you start fixing up old buildings," he said, "you're throwing money down a rat hole."

"I'm on the opposite side," said Commissioner Ted Godwin. "A new DSS building would free up a lot of space" for other offices in a less costly manner, he added.

Commissioner Tony Braswell voiced concerns about spending large amounts of money on county offices given the multitude of facility needs facing Johnston's public-school system.

VIEW details of the Space Needs Study with the agenda for Monday's meeting>


Pictured above is the addition attached some years ago to the back of the former Johnston County Hospital building to provide more office space for the Department of Social Services. Pictured below is one of two adjacent buildings taken over by Social Services when several farm-service agencies moved to the new Johnston County Agricultural Center west of Smithfield.


 



PUBLIC SERVICE ADVISORIES

County increases COVID testing days as cases rise again
The following was posted on social media Wednesday by the County of Johnston:     With an increase in COVID-19 cases and an increased demand for testing, the OptumServe COVID-19 testing site will add Fridays to the schedule beginning this week. The testing site is located at 601-B N. Eighth Street in Smithfield (behind Johnston Health next to Carolina Home Medical). The testing days and times are now Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Testing is free regardless of health insurance or immigration status. More information at JohnstonNC.com/COVID19>

Fire Department will begin testing of hydrants next week
The following was posted on social media Wednesday by the Town of Smithfield:
The Smithfield Fire Department will be flow-testing fire hydrants beginning Monday (May 23). The process will take several weeks. During this time, you may notice some discoloration of your water. If this occurs, simply run the water from your faucets for 3-5 minutes and the discoloration should disappear. Call 919-934-2468 for more information.
 


Mayor Andy Moore (left) proclaimed May 10 as "Matylda Malocha Day" in Smithfield when she was named "Ambassador of the Year." With Mayor Moore and Ms. Malocha are Johnston Health's CEO Tom Williams and HR executive Robert Cupp.
(Photo & story from Johnston Health)


Johnston Health "Ambassador of the Year" has her day

An employee once described Matylda Malocha as the most helpful person she had ever met. At the time, the employee was in a new role within her department and had several questions and concerns. Malocha took the time to listen, answer the questions she could, and research the ones she wasn’t sure about. She even brought up points the employee had not considered.

Though shared anonymously, the story of her interaction with Malocha could have been told by anyone at Johnston Health, said Tom Williams, CEO and president of Johnston Health. "She's always helpful, professional, and striving to provide the best service to and for teammates. With her positive attitude and radiant smile, she goes out of her way to make everyone feel special and important."

Last week, Malocha was named Johnston Health Ambassador of the Year for her outstanding performance, dedication to teammates, and exemplary service.  As an added surprise, Smithfield's Mayor Andy Moore was on hand to proclaim May 10 as Matylda Malocha Day.

Malocha said she is surprised, humbled, and a little overwhelmed by the recognition. "It's my joy and passion to help teammates with any HR-related issues," she said. "I feel grateful to live in this wonderful country with amazing opportunities and to be surrounded at work by fabulous teammates and great leaders."

More than 30 years ago, Malocha started as an occasional worker in food services. Not long afterward, she became a full-time department secretary for OB and Orthopedics, and then an assistant manager at the family-care clinic at McGee's Crossroads. When the clinic closed, she moved to Human Resources where she has been ever since.

Malocha grew up in Poland and regularly goes back to visit family. She and her husband Paul, a retired veterinarian, live near McGee's Crossroads. They have three grown children and three grandchildren.
 
Ambassadors of the Year are selected by Johnston Health’s senior leaders from among each year's 12 Ambassadors of the Month. It is the highest honor the organization bestows upon employees.



 

WHAT'S COMING UP?

Downtown's Third StrEATery this Friday features Reggae

The monthly outdoor dining event on the 100 block of South Third Street continues from 6 to 9 p.m. This month's musical entertainer is Crucial Fiya, a Reggae ensemble. Tables will be set up in the street for diners bringing take-out dishes from nearby restaurants of their choosing. There's no admission charge.

Movies in the Park series opener at sundown Saturday

"Bring your chair or blanket and enjoy the show!" exclaims the Smithfield Parks and Recreation Department, which is hosting the series at Community Park off Durwood Stephenson Parkway. This Saturday's movie, which starts at sundown, is Disney's Encanto. Picnics are welcome, and chicken sandwiches will be available for sale by Chick-fil-A, which is sponsoring the series. Additional movies scheduled: June 11, The Goonies; July 22, A League of Their Own; August 6, Beauty and the Beast.




DEATHS & FUNERALS

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

JADDIUS RAY HORTON, 37 – died May 17

MINISTER CYNTHIA JOHNSON, 59 – died May 16

BRANDON TODD PHILLIPS, 40 – died May 16

KEVIN WILLARD SIMMONS, 54 – died May 12

 



A WORD (OR TWO) FROM THE EDITOR

Two things about our elections that oughta be changed

The first is that 30% rule for determining winners of primary elections without a runoff. The latest example of how that falls woefully short of determining the will of a majority of voters was our 13th Congressional District race among Republican candidates that saw the winner, Bo Hines, get the party's nomination with just 32% of votes cast in the four-county district. That means 68% voted for somebody else.

The second and third finishers in that eight-candidate contest – DeVan Barbour and Kelly Daughtry – together polled almost 40% of votes cast.

The threshold for a first-primary victory was changed some years ago from 40% to 30%, and at one time was 50%, to avoid a runoff. Wouldn't it be fairer if Mr. Hines and Mr. Barbour, who finished second, were in next month's Second Primary?

The other thing changed by the Republican majority in the N.C. General Assembly a few years ago was to make judicial elections partisan in North Carolina. Why in the world should a candidate for District Court judge or State Supreme Court justice be campaigning under either the Democratic or Republican banner?

There should be no political agenda attached to judicial offices. But that's the way it is these days, not just here but everywhere else across the nation, so it seems.

I know of Johnston County judges in recent times who changed their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican to guard against certain defeat in the present-day political climate in our neck of the woods. Once they're elected, those party labels are meaningless. Or at least they should be.



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