ONLINE APRIL 22, 2021 • VOL. 3,
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
A portrait for EARTH DAY 2021
It's a view from the Market Street bridge over the Neuse --- taken at midday Wednesday on the eve of the 51st birthday of Earth Day (born April 22, 1970).
The sky appears clear of pollution, yet the muddy river suggests environmental mischief apparently resulting from enormous land development upstream.
READ MORE about the observance of Earth Day on the OBSERVATIONS page>
Johnston vaccination percentages lagging
54,262 Johnstonians have been partially vaccinated for COVID-19 --- 25.9% of the county's estimated population --- while 40,268 have been fully vaccinated --- 19.2% of the population --- according to Wednesday's report from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Those percentages are below what's being reported statewide: 37.2% partially vaccinated and 28.1% fully vaccinated.
The county's Health Department has scheduled another of its drive-thru vaccination clinics at 8 a.m. this Friday at Johnston Community College. The clinic will offer both first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to anyone age 16 and older free of charge as long as supplies last.
VISIT myshot.nc.gov for a directory of upcoming vaccination opportunities>
Johnston County Public Schools reported 46 active cases among students
(33 a week earlier) and 14 among employees (15 last week) as of Wednesday afternoon. The number of active quarantines among students increased from 228 last week to 433 this week; the number of active quarantines among school employees increased from 37 to 49.
As of this morning (Thursday), the county had not updated its twice-weekly report since last Thursday (April 15). "We are having issues with the system that collects the COVID-19 data. We will update as soon as it is corrected," Public Information Officer Lu Hickey told the Sun Wednesday evening.
VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>
SSS team wins "Battle of the Books"
Smithfield-Selma High School's team placed first in Johnston County Public Schools' annual "Battle of the Books" competition, held "virtually" last Friday with teams from Clayton and Cleveland high schools. Students on the teams read 15 books over the past three months and competed in answering questions about the books' content. The SSS team racked up an "all-time high score of 104," according to an announcement from the school. Pictured are team members (left to right) Kyra Worth, faculty advisor Angela Causby, Jude Reece, Ruthie Nutt, and Jaime Sugg. Team members Catherine Cepin and Maya Mercier are barely visible on the screen in the center. (Photo from Smithfield-Selma High School)
VIEW the latest SSS Principal's List and Honor Roll>
"Draft" Smithfield budget would raise
fees for collecting garbage, yard debris
Town Manager Mike Scott's "Draft Budget" for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins July 1 will get its first review by the Smithfield Town Council during a special session called for 6:30 p.m. today (Thursday) at Town Hall.
His proposal keeps the town's property-tax rate unchanged but includes increases of $1 a month for both garbage-collection and yard-debris fees charged residents. Those fees are currently $16.24 and $10.00.
The "draft" includes a 2.5% salary adjustment "for all personnel" that "could be changed to a 4% merit increase should the council choose to utilize merit pay as opposed to the annual salary adjustment," Mr. Scott notes.
The public may attend today's meeting; the town has not been live-streaming its council sessions.
VIEW the entire "Draft Budget" on the Town of Smithfield website>
County will save half-a-million dollars
by refinancing 2013 school-bond issue
Following a recommendation from staff, Johnston's County Commissioners on Monday authorized refinancing $14,510,000 of a $71-million county bond issue approved by voters in 2013 that reduces the interest rate from 3.24% to 1.74%.
Martha Lassiter, the county Finance Department's debt manager, said the change will save the county an estimated $548,000 by the time the bonds mature in 2034.
Starting in 2014, those bonds have been issued to finance construction projects for public schools ($64 million) and Johnston Community College ($7 million).
Additional bond refinancing for a total of $37.7 million may be in the works "if opportunities present themselves," Ms. Lassiter told commissioners.
Meanwhile, the third and final sale of school bonds approved by voters in 2018 is scheduled May 11 at an interest rate estimated between 1.5% and 1.6%, she said.
READ MORE from Monday's meeting of the County Commissioners>
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WHAT'S COMING UP?
LITTER-SWEEP IN SMITHFIELD THIS SATURDAY
Volunteers are encouraged to join the "cleaning up the parks" campaign from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at three locations: the Sarah Yard Community Center at 909 E. Lee Street, the Bob Wallace Jaycee Kiddie Park off S. Second Street, and Community Park off M. Durwood Stephenson Parkway.
VIRTUAL STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL STARTS SATURDAY
The Triangle East Chamber of Commerce is offering an online Strawberry Festival Scavenger Hunt that launches this Saturday (April 24) and continues through May 1. Participants will compete to complete the most tasks and win cash prizes. Those tasks include taking selfies with innovative menu items at local restaurants, discovering local artists, checking out websites for clues to answer questions, and getting out to area parks. The event is taking the place of an annual festival usually hosted by the Cleveland community but put on hold the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. Call Pernell Inc. is the presenting sponsor. To download the Scavenger Hunt app to participate,
ANNUAL "SHRED EVENT" SCHEDULED SATURDAY, MAY 1
The annual Shred Event organized by Johnston County Register of Deeds Craig Olive is scheduled for Saturday, May 1 from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m. in the parking lot of Smithfield-Selma High School. Boy Scouts from Troop 124 will be on hand to assist with the event where citizens may dispose of "sensitive and personal documents" free of charge.
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....
FREDERICK AVERY, 63 - died April 18
JERRY (WAYNE) LEE, 64 - died April 15
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS