ONLINE APRIL 29, 2021 • VOL. 3,
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
This striking new building is under construction near the intersection of East Market Street and College Road on the campus of Johnston Community College.
Smithfield's engineering school will soon
have a home of its own on the JCC campus
A "School of Engineering" at Johnston Community College? It will be prominently displayed with completion of its own building --- hailed with a groundbreaking ceremony last Thursday evening.
Launched in 2015, JCC's program leads to an associate degree that opens the way for students to move up to renowned engineering schools like those at N.C. State and Georgia Tech.
JCC's President David Johnson told Thursday's gathering that 10 JCC engineering students have earned Goodnight Scholarships to N.C. State over the past four years, with 17 current students invited to apply for those awards --- "unprecedented in the state," Dr. Johnson added.
Currently, JCC's engineering program has about 100 students enrolled, according to Aaron Brickman (pictured), department chair for engineering as well as natural sciences and mathematics.
The acceptance rate for JCC graduates seeking admission to schools offering bachelor's degrees in engineering is 85 percent.
The 50,000-square-foot building to be completed next year is funded by $15 million from the county bond issue approved by Johnston's voters in 2018. It will include 10 laboratories, interactive "smart" classrooms, and a lecture hall that seats 150.
VIEW more renderings of the building on this week's FEATURE PAGE>
Just 21.1% of us are fully vaccinated
55,690 Johnstonians have been partially vaccinated for COVID-19 --- 26.6% of the county's estimated population --- while 44,161 have been fully vaccinated --- 21.1% of the population --- according to Wednesday's report from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Those percentages are significantly below what's being reported statewide (see table below).
VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics offered in Johnston County>
The County of Johnston reported 787 active COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday afternoon: 767 recovering at home and 20 in hospitals. That's up from 660 cases a week ago. Of 20,506 cases reported here over the past year, 19,505 Johnstonians are presumed recovered from COVID-19 infections.
Johnston County Public Schools reported 45 active cases among students
(46 a week earlier) and just 3 among employees (14 last week) as of Wednesday afternoon. The number of active quarantines among students jumped from 433 last week to 604 this week; the number of active quarantines among school employees rose from 49 to 60.
VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>
TOWN HALL, COUNTY OFFICES RE-OPENING MONDAY
For the first time in more than a year, all offices inside Smithfield's Town Hall (opening at 8:30 weekdays) and County of Johnston offices inside the Courthouse and elsewhere will be open to serve the public starting next Monday (May 3). Even so, face masks and social distancing will remain the protocol, and there will be limits on how many persons may inhabit lobby areas, County Manager Rick Hester noted.
WHAT IS "PROJECT XD"?
Industrial announcement expected May 10
Back in January, the Smithfield Town Council approved the rezoning of six properties totaling just over 258 acres for a proposed "West Smithfield Industrial Park" --- a site just beyond West Smithfield's residential neighborhoods on the north side of US 70 Business.
Last Thursday evening, during the council's first budget session of the season, Town Manager Mike Scott announced that a joint meeting of the council and Johnston's County Commissioners is scheduled for Monday, May 10 to consider local incentives for "Project XD" --- the code name being used by local officials for a large industrial prospect eyeing the West Smithfield site.
This week's Johnstonian News reports that the prospect is apparently an Amazon distribution warehouse, based on the newspaper's examination of site plans and other documents submitted to the Town of Smithfield's Planning Department.
ASP Smithfield LLC is headed by Arthur Samet, president and CEO of the company that requested the recent West Smithfield rezoning. The Samet Corporation identifies itself as "one of the leading Commercial and Industrial General Contractors, Design & Builders, and Construction Managers in the Southeast." This week, a fleet of tractors and trucks were on the job moving earth at the West Smithfield site.
What's somewhat surprising about Amazon as the prospect here is its massive distribution center recently opened in nearby Garner on the former Jesse Jones Sausage site. Amazon announced last summer that eventually it will provide more than 3,000 jobs there.
Johnston's jobless rate continues to shrink
And that means more and more Johnstonians are finding employment again.
The N.C. Department of Commerce's report for March shows the county's jobless rate dropped to 4.1% last month --- down from an adjusted 4.9% in February as the number of Johnstonians employed climbed from 95,410 to 96,212 while the number filing claims for unemployment insurance declined from 4,982 to 4,069.
As good as that looks, we're still short of recovering completely from pre-pandemic numbers. In early 2020 more than 98,000 Johnstonians held jobs, producing a jobless rate just above 3%. After the COVID-19 outbreak shut things down, the number of persons employed here dropped to a low point of 79,638 last April as the jobless rate approached 11%.
Johnston County Public Schools photo
SSS BAND DIRECTOR IS OUR "TEACHER OF THE YEAR"
Brian Jones (center) was named winner of this year's Flame for Learning Award by the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce and will carry Johnston County's banner into regional competition for North Carolina's "Teacher of the Year." He's pictured here following Wednesday evening's announcement with Smithfield-Selma High's Principal David Allen (left) and Johnston's Superintendent of Schools Eric Bracy. Mr. Jones has excelled as director of the SSS Band for 18 years. His winning "best practice" in competition with 19 other semi-finalists for Johnston's award was entitled "Engaging Students During a Pandemic."
13 SSS athletes named "All-Conference"
Smithfield-Selma High School posted on its website this week a list of its students who have been named to Greater Neuse River All-Conference teams:
Cross Country --- Alex Topoly, Teagan Farrell, Elizabeth King.
Girls Basketball --- Myshiah McQueen.
Boys Basketball --- Devon Jaylyn.
Volleyball --- Maddie Gibson.
Swimming --- Wyatt Langston, Jackson Harris, Megan Denny.
Soccer --- Jesus Vazquez, Adrian Garcia.
Football --- Clevonte Ward, Devon Jaylyn.
Conference Sportsmanship winners include Jack Helmer and Mary Kate Niswonger in cross country, Zniah Thaggard and Darius Faulk in basketball, Emily Stuckey in volleyball, Jack Helmer and Lorena Garcia in swimming, Abraham Melchor in soccer, and Michael Thompson in football.
The Greater Neuse River 3-A Conference includes Clayton, Cleveland, South Johnston, West Johnston, and East Wake high schools as well as SSS.
Smithfield Council taking a detailed
look at town manager's "draft" budget
The Town Council started the task last Thursday and continued with sessions on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Questions are being asked and explanations are forthcoming from staff, yet no firm decisions have been made so far.
The goal is adoption of the town's budget for 2021-22 in June since the new fiscal year begins July 1. The council will hold its fourth budget session at 6:30 p.m. this Monday (May 3) and may continue deliberations after normal business is handled at Tuesday's monthly council session (agenda information below).
Town Manager Mike Scott's "draft" budget is based on keeping the property-tax rate unchanged for another year but it does include $1 monthly increases in fees for weekly garbage and yard-waste collections.
READ the Sun's report from the council's first three budget sessions>
WHAT'S COMING UP?
COUNTY BOARD WILL MEET AT AG CENTER MONDAY
Johnston's County Commissioners will hold their monthly first-Monday sessions in the auditorium of the Agricutural Center on NC 210 west of Smithfield. Public seating will be limited because of COVID-19 concerns, but both the morning and evening sessions will be live-streamed on the county's Facebook page>
During the 10 a.m. session, the board will receive a Draft Recreation Master Plan and get its monthly COVID-19 update from county officials.
VIEW the complete agenda posted on the county's website>
During the 6 p.m. session, the board will consider three rezoning petitions --- for properties in Pleasant Grove, Elevation, and Cleveland townships.
VIEW the complete agenda posted on the county's website>
TOWN COUNCIL'S REGULAR MONTHLY MEETING TUESDAY
It will begin at 7 p.m. at Town Hall and is open to the public with face masks required. The meeting will be recorded for viewing later on the town's website.
On the agenda are public hearings on a conditional-zoning request for 10 single-family dwellings on 1.2 acres at the southeast corner of South Sixth and Johnston streets and a special-use request for a single-family dwelling within an Office & Institutional district on the north side of Wilkins Street east of North Seventh Street.
The council will consider the proposed naming of two town properties:
• "Eva E. Ennis Park" for the new splash pad at the former swimming-pool site across from Smith-Collins Park.
• "Rachel May Mattox Girl Scout Hut" for the historic structure at the southern terminus of the Buffalo Creek Greenway off South Second Street.
VIEW the complete agenda posted on the town's website>
ANNUAL "SHRED EVENT" 10 A.M. TO 1 P.M. SATURDAY
The annual Shred Event organized by Johnston County Register of Deeds Craig Olive will open at 10 a.m. and continue till 1 p.m. this Saturday 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....
KATHLEEN STARLING HINNANT, 94 - died April 27
SARAH ANN BUTTS SASSER, 89 - died April 26
DORIS RUTH PHILLIPS EUDY, 87 - died April 25
ALAN CARL GARDNER, 70 - died April 25
BILLY BRUCE WIGGS, 91 - died April 23
GLADYS IRENE CALDWELL BERRYMAN, 94 - died April 22
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS
DOWNTOWN "BUGGY SHOP" IN THE EARLY 1900s
And to the left is the site of one of Smithfield's early theaters, known first as the Dixie and later as the Victory --- across South Third Street from the present-day Howell Theatre that opened in 1935, years after this photograph was taken.
(Photo from the Johnston County Heritage Center)
DID YOU MISS A PREVIOUS EDITION?
Rewind with our archives
LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION?
Up-to-data Johnston County data
along with useful community links are
on the Smithfield-Selma Sun website>