PUBLISHED ONLINE MAY 27, 2021   •   VOL. 3, NO. 21

Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)

Proposed county budget cuts tax rate
with modest increase in school funding

Manager Rick Hester's proposed county budget for fiscal 2021-22 is balanced with a one-cent cut in the property-tax rate and an increase in local school funding that's well short of what has been requested by the Johnston County Board of Education.

The school board's request seeks additional county appropriations of $7,927,090 for operations and $2,162,000 for capital outlay; Mr. Hester's proposal calls for increases of $500,000 for operations and $400,000 for capital projects.

"We are fortunate to enjoy a great working relationship with our education partners," Mr. Hester wrote in his Budget Message. "This has been an unusual year and there are still many uncertainties beyond anyone's control. I believe that in a year from now... we will all have a better baseline of information to work with." Meanwhile, he said his recommended allocations for Johnston's public schools are made "with anticipated further discussions in June and throughout the upcoming year regarding reserves, projected/actual enrollment figures, and impacts of state funding."

The County Commissioners will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget during the board's morning session on Monday, June 7. Adoption of the 2021-22 budget must be done before July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

A one-cent cut in the county's property-tax rate of 76 cents per $100 valuation would reduce anticipated revenues about $2 million, Mr. Hester told the Sun. For the owner of real estate valued at $250,000, the cut would reduce one's yearly tax bill by $25.

READ Mr. Hester's full Budget Message posted on the county's website>

Smithfield Council in agreement on key
items in proposed 2021-22 town budget

Those items include increases in monthly fees for garbage and trash collection, a "revenue neutral" tweaking of electrical rates, 2.5% pay raises for all town employees, and additional part-time firemen assisting the county with EMS calls.

The proposed budget is balanced without a change in the town's property-tax rate of 57 cents per $100 valuation.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be conducted during the Town Council's regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. next Tuesday at Town Hall. The full agenda for that meeting will be posted on the town's website>

READ MORE from the past week's Town Council budget sessions>

Johnnie Pippin stands with one of the colorful new signs fronting the Public Library in Downtown Smithfield. Others are pictured below. (Story & photos from the Library)


Johnnie Pippin has been hired to lead the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield as its director. He brings more than 20 years of experience as a librarian in both public and academic libraries.

Mr. Pippin holds a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from UNC-Wilmington and a Master's in Library Science Degree from North Carolina Central University with a focus on Government Documents, Special and Public Libraries.

Beginning as a library page in his hometown of Havelock, he moved on to working in academic library settings at both UNC-Wilmington and N.C. State University.

In 2010, Mr. Pippin transitioned to the public-library sector as head of the Reference Department of the Wayne County Public Library System based in Goldsboro. From there, he spent several years with the State Library of North Carolina in Raleigh as liaison and consultant to public libraries and also as part of the N.C. Cardinal consortium unit handling data and migrations.

Most recently, he served as director of the Sampson-Clinton Public Library System.

While new to the position here, Mr. Pippin is not new to the community. He and his wife Betsy and their two daughters, Ellie and Riley, have lived in Smithfield for more than 10 years.

real-estate broker

Commercial Property for Sale: vacant store (Jewel Box), 1699 E. Booker Dairy Road, $622,000


Health Department offering vaccines
to ages 12-18 at SSS next Wednesday

The Johnston County Health Department will offer first and second doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to young people ages 12-18 next Wednesday (June 2) at Smithfield-Selma High School. There's no charge for the shots, but appointments are requested and youth must be accompanied by an adult. To sign up, click here>

VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics offered in Johnston County>

Based on reports compiled by the Sun, here's how many persons received their final COVID-19 shots over the past week to be classified as "fully vaccinated":

• Johnston County --- 1,516 (2,030 previous week)
• North Carolina ---- 119,061(159,049 previous week)
• United States --- 6,396,666 (7,805,984 previous week)

The County of Johnston reported 509 active COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday: 494 recovering at home and 15 in hospitals. That's up from 357 cases in last week's report. Of 21,382 cases reported here over the past year, 20,641 Johnstonians are presumed recovered from COVID-19 infections.

Despite those encouraging numbers, Johnston reported six more COVID-19 deaths this past week.

Johnston County Public Schools reported 15 active cases among students 
(43 a week ago) and 1 among employees (1 last week) 
as of Wednesday afternoon. The number of active quarantines among students dropped from 343 last week to 202 this week; the number of active quarantines among school employees is down from 16 to 13.

VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>

Case total
since 3-2020

(last week)
since 3-2020
(last week)
In hospital
this week
(last week)

ZIP CODE 27577






(total doses)
Information from County of Johnston at 4:25 p.m. May 25; N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:00 p.m. May 26; Johns Hopkins University at 4:21 p.m. May 26
* Percentage of total population (all ages)


212 E. Church Street • 919-934-1121

Water-supply issues hit county's customers;
incident at Smithfield didn't impact locals

The County of Johnston sent out several water-conservation advisories during the past week because of separate issues at both the county's water-treatment plant and Smithfield's plant.

First of all, a piping failure last Thursday at the county's plant on the Neuse River at Wilson's Mills restricted the amount of water available for customers of the county's system. That was fixed within a day or so, allowing the county to lift its water-shortage advisory last Friday afternoon.

Then, last weekend a mechanical failure during maintenance of the Neuse River intake at Smithfield's plant prompted the town to suspend its sale of water to the county in order to maintain stable service for the town's customers. That problem was fixed earlier this week, restoring water supplies for the county's system.

On top of all that, the county issued an advisory on Tuesday that a portion of its system serving areas east of Clayton "will be supplemented with chloraminated water" until June 1. "Water supply to these areas is typically chlorine only, but ammonia will be added to the system for disinfection under the emergency supply conditions," the county's advisory said.

Smithfield customers have not been adversely affected by any of those situations, Town Manager Mike Scott reported to the Town Council Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, the county has completed an expansion project at its Timothy G. Broome Water Treatment Plant that will be "online and operational once we receive final approval from the state," reports Chandra Farmer, the county's utilities director.


The Ava Gardner Museum's Director Lynell Seabold stands with one of the new exhibits making their debut with the museum's re-opening last weekend after replacement of carpet and repainting of walls that were ruined by a plumbing failure in early January. Calling the event "devastating," Ms. Seabold said her response was "let's turn this into something good." The result, she said, is "a brand-new museum." Focal point of the new displays are costumes from Ava's five-decade career as a movie actress. Although she grew up in the farming community known as "Grabtown" out Brogden Road, she considered Smithfield her hometown.
Visit the Johnston County Visitors Bureau's website to learn more>


The N.C. Department of Public Instruction has designated Smithfield-Selma High a "Purple Star, military-friendly school," according to an announcement from SSS. "The school has a dedicated link on its website for military families as a resource when they move in and out of the area on a Permanent Change of Orders. These resources and experts in the building accommodate military children, helping to make their stay and transition as easy as possible." Representing SSS in the picture are (left to right) Master Sergeant Randy Griffin (retired), Cadet Amy Martinez, Cadet ENS Miranda Galindo, Cadet Jennifer Aparicio, Cadet Ana Alvarado, and Master Chief Matthew DesChamps (retired). (Photo from SSS)

Story & photo from Partnership for Children
of Johnston County
There's a new story
at park's Story Walk

A new book has come to the Story Walk at Partnership for Children Park next to Smithfield's Community Park off Durwood Stephenson Parkway.

The book is "Peace is an Offering," written by Annette Lebox with illustrations by Stephanie Graegin. The biling
ual book is a poem about finding peace in a community of neighbors.

The pages of the book are spread across 16 storyboards. Below each storyboard, questions in English and Spanish encourage children to ask questions, build vocabulary, and connect to their world.

The Story Walk concept traces its roots to 2007 and Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont. A specialist in chronic disease prevention, she was looking for fun ways to get families outside and moving when she came up with the idea of separating out the pages of a children’s book and posting them along a nature trail.

Partnership for Children Park, maintained by the Town of Smithfield, is a unique "inclusive park" with play spaces for children of all abilities.