|PUBLISHED ONLINE MAY 6, 2021 • VOL. 3, NO. 18|
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
Schools asking county to fund bonus pay
for teachers who boost lagging students
First of all, a proposed 2021-22 budget put before the Johnston County Board of Education last week calls for an increase of almost $8 million in funding from county taxpayers. Beyond that, it asks County Commissioners for a commitment to pay direct bonuses to teachers and other employees at low-performing schools that improve their academic standing.
Those bonuses would range from $1,000 to $3,000 per teacher and half those amounts for all other employees including teacher assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, clerical staff, even substitute teachers. How much that would cost wouldn't be known till the end of the school year so it isn't included in the proposed budget.
"Let's face it: If you're labeled a D or an F school, it's difficult to recruit teachers," Superintendent Eric Bracy told the board. "We want to put wonderful teachers in all our schools."
READ MORE from last Thursday evening's budget session>
County's last drive-thru vaccination clinic
this Friday at Johnston Community College
Dr. Marilyn Pearson, Johnston's director of public health, told the County Commissioners this week that Friday's drive-thru clinic will be the last in a series administered by the county's Health Department over the past several months. It's scheduled from 8 to 10 a.m. at JCC for distribution of both first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to anyone at least 16 years of age (those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult).
Apparently, participation by the public at these wide-open clinics is waning.
57,061 Johnstonians have been partially vaccinated for COVID-19 --- 27.3% of the county's estimated population --- while 47,807 have been fully vaccinated --- 22.8% of the population --- according to Wednesday's report from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Those percentages are less than what's being reported statewide: 39.5% of total N.C. population partially vaccinated, 33.5% fully vaccinated.
The state also reported at mid-week that 42.5% of the N.C. adult population has been fully vaccinated, 49.9% partially vaccinated. Governor Roy Cooper wants two-thirds of North Carolina's adult population vaccinated before he lifts the mandate for wearing face masks.
President Joe Biden's goal: 70% of U.S. adults vaccinated by the Fourth of July.
VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics offered in Johnston County>
The County of Johnston reported 807 active COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday morning: 791 recovering at home and 16 in hospitals. That's up from 787 cases a week ago. Of 20,778 cases reported here over the past year, 19,749 Johnstonians are presumed recovered from COVID-19 infections. Eight more deaths were reported this past week, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 222.
Johnston County Public Schools reported 51 active cases among students
(45 a week ago) and 7 among employees (3 last week) as of Wednesday afternoon. The number of active quarantines among students declined from 604 last week to 567 this week; the number of active quarantines among school employees dropped from 60 to 33.
VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>
Body cameras for Smithfield's police?
Cost of "cloud" storage an impediment
Smithfield's Chief of Police Keith Powell requested $84,154 in the coming year's town budget for 28 body cameras for his department's patrol officers.
Town Manager Mike Scott (a former police chief here and elsewhere) did not include it in the "draft" budget he has been reviewing with the Town Council over the past couple of weeks.
A discussion about that at Monday's budget session revealed the hesitancy in moving forward with the "body cams," and it's mostly because of the unknown long-term cost of storing those videos for years and years in the digital "cloud."
That would require a vendor to provide the service. Of the $84,154 requested, $25,070 was estimated for cloud storage the first year, but it could be more --- much more --- the council was told.
Chief Powell said law-enforcement agencies are required to keep videos of police encounters in felony cases until all legal appeals have been exhausted.
Presently, all of Smithfield's patrol cars are equipped with recording cameras that are activated whenever the vehicle's blue lights are turned on. That's been going on for some time now, and "we've not erased anything we've done," Chief Powell said.
So far, the town has been able to store those recordings on its own digital server in-house, he noted, but adding body-cam recordings to that will push the town to using servers provided by contractors "in the cloud."
Meanwhile, the town manager's proposed budget does include $189,324 to replace the aging camera system presently installed in 28 patrol cars.
The council will continue its budget deliberations during a special session set for 6:30 p.m. today (Thursday) inside the training room of Fire Station No. 1 across Fourth Street from Town Hall.
READ REPORT from Tuesday's regular monthly meeting of the Town Council>
"Trusted by families since 1977"
840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. • 919-934-7164 • www.carrollpharmacy.com
Updated survey shows growing demand
for more greenways throughout Johnston
The Johnston County Board of Commissioners received a proposed Parks and Recreation Master Plan on Monday that's highlighted by a recent survey showing mounting support for greenways for walking and hiking.
"Resoundingly, people want access to greenways and trails," reported Sara Burroughs of Sage Design, a Wilmington-based consulting firm employed by the county. Of 1,163 Johnstonians who voluntarily completed a survey last fall, 75% rated greenways as "very important' in planning for the future, she noted --- up from 41% of 2,501 citizens who said so in a similar survey done in 2015.
Comparing the two surveys further, Ms. Burroughs said percentage of interest also went up for playgrounds, athletic fields, community centers, and "lawn areas" for special events as well as personal recreation.
"Another key difference is increased interest in strengthening partnerships between parks and schools," she reported.
Adrian O'Neal --- Johnston's parks, greenways, and open-space coordinator --- asked commissioners to examine the proposed Master Plan in consideration of adopting it next month.
Details of the proposal were not discussed at Monday's meeting. The full plan --- including a number of "action items" --- is posted on the county's website>
READ MORE from Monday's sessions of the County Commissioners>
The paucity of precipitation in April has reduced the Neuse River at Smithfield to a depth shallow enough for wading near the banks as these young folks were doing Tuesday afternoon at the boat ramp.
First, a surplus of rainfall; now, a shortage
After almost 18 inches of rain during the first three months of 2021, we got barely an inch in April --- 0.92 of an inch, to be exact, according to Cornell Cox's Backyard Weather Station in South Smithfield.
"April may have been the driest month of at least the past two years," he observed. "The freeze, frost, and now the drought has been hard on new growth, including grass. While the water table must be good, the topsoil is about as dry for this time of year as I ever remember."
Although Mr. Cox has resided in Smithfield most of his life, he grew up on a tobacco farm in Johnston County's Bentonville Township so he knows a thing or two about the weather, especially rainfall (and the lack thereof).
According to his observatory, we've had a total of 18.42 inches January-April 2021.
Repairs to the eroding riverbank beside the Greenway were delayed earlier this year by high water resulting from above-normal rainfall, but the recent dry spell has cleared the way for the work to begin. The section shown here above the Market Street bridge has been shored up with concrete. Another washed-out section below the bridge is next to be fixed.
WHAT'S COMING UP?
INDUSTRIAL ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULED MONDAY
The Johnston County Board of Commissioners and the Smithfield Town Council will meet jointly at 11 a.m. Monday to approve incentives for a warehouse and distribution center to be constructed in the recently approved West Smithfield Industrial Park beside US 70 Business. The identity of the industrial prospect will be disclosed during a public hearing at Monday's meeting, which will be conducted at the Smithfield Recreation & Aquatics Center, 600 M. Durwood Stephenson Parkway.
SCHOOL BOARD'S REGULAR MONTHLY MEETING TUESDAY
The Johnston County Board of Education will convene in closed session at 4 p.m. and then open its meeting to the public at 5 p.m. Board meetings are held in the Evander S. Simpson Building on US 70 Business east of Smithfield and are live-streamed through the school system's website where the meeting's agenda will be posted as soon as it's released.
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....
HELEN VIRGINIA DEANS BYRD, 86 - died May 5
LINDA SUE FERRELL JONES, 61 - died May 2
DR. DICKY E. PARRISH, 71 - died April 30
PAULINE PETERSON, 70 - died April 30
EDNA THOMPSON SANDERS, 91 - died April 30
DEBRA ELIZABETH BARBOUR BYRD, 67 - died April 29
OSSIELEE HOPE, 74 - died April 29
BETTY ANN SELLERS BENSON, 76 - died April 28
DAVID RUFFIN BLACKMAN, 63 - died April 27
FRANCISCO OTERO-ROBLES, 78 - died April 27
GLENN ALFORD GRAHAM, 67 - died March 9
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS