ONLINE JUNE 24, 2021 • VOL. 3,
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
JUNETEENTH, OUR NEWEST HOLIDAY, ARRIVES IN SMITHFIELD
Starting with a parade through the old African-American Belmont neighborhood, Smithfield's Juneteenth celebration last Saturday had added meaning after adoption of Congressional legislation making June 19 a national holiday from now on.
MORE ABOUT IT on this week's FEATURE PAGE>
County budget adopted with school-funding
freeze until Critical Race Theory addressed
Johnston's County Commissioners adopted a budget for fiscal 2021-22 Monday evening without an increase in funding for operations of Johnston's public schools --- an appropriation commissioners said could rise in the near future if the county's Board of Education adopts a policy banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory, an academic concept that emphasizes systemic racism throughout the nation's history.
Approved by unanimous vote, the motion to adopt the budget included this wording:
"If and when the Board of Education adopts policies that eliminate the possibility of divisive teaching topics, current-expense funding will be funded from a floor of $72,000,000 (the past year's amount) to a ceiling of $79,900,000 (the school board's request)." A specific reference to Critical Race Theory was removed from the final version of the board's motion.
At the outset of Monday's session, School Board Chairman Todd Sutton told commissioners that the school system already has in place a policy on Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct that can be amended as follows:
"Instructional staff and other school-system employees will not utilize methods or materials that will create division or promote animosity among students, staff, and the community. Staff shall not teach social theories outside of North Carolina standards of any kind to students unless approved by the North Carolina State Board of Education and legislated by the North Carolina General Assembly."
Mr. Sutton said his board is "committed" to adopting that policy amendment.
During discussion prior to the budget vote, Commissioner Tony Braswell questioned why school funding should be put on hold pending approval of a policy on Critical Race Theory. "We heard them say they will do this at the next (school) board meeting," he said. "I don't see why we can't go ahead and do the funding."
While putting a temporary freeze on spending for school operations, the commissioners' budget resolution does grant the school system's request in full for capital projects (beyond what's funded by bond issues), raising the amount to $2,962,000 from $800,000 appropriated this past year.
Property-tax rate cut to 73 cents per $100 valuation
The budget resolution adopted Monday cuts the county's property-tax rate by three cents for bills going out this summer for 2021. For real-estate valued at $250,000, the reduction will cut one's bill by $75 over what was owed from the past year's tax rate of 76 cents. (The Town of Smithfield's rate of 57 cents remains unchanged.)
READ MORE about the new budget and other matters on Monday's agenda>
School board schedules special session at 5 p.m. Friday
Notice went out Wednesday afternoon for the meeting to discuss the status of the budget in open session and personnel matters in closed session. To be conducted virtually, the open session will be live-streamed on the schools' YouTube channel>
Standing with Governor Roy Cooper as he addressed last Friday's news conference here are Johnston County Health Director Marilyn Pearson, State Representative Donna White, Smithfield's Mayor Andy Moore, and County Commissioners' Chairman Chad Stewart.
Governor pleads the case for vaccinations
during visit to Johnston Health Department
"I thank God for the miraculous vaccines that are pulling us back to normal," declared North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper after touring the Johnston County Public Health Department's in-house vaccination clinic Friday morning.
But the battle isn't over, he emphasized. "The Delta variant is more dangerous and more contagious" than the original COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus, "and it's passing mostly through un-vaccinated people," said the Governor.
The immediate goal is to get at least two-thirds of North Carolina's adults vaccinated in the near future, Mr. Cooper said. This week the state reports that 55% of persons age 18 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 52% of adults have been fully vaccinated. In Johnston County 52% of adults have received at least one dose and 48% are fully vaccinated.
"We know this is the way out... to put the pandemic fully behind us," the Governor said of the push to get more folks vaccinated.
To boost the campaign, his administration has set up a lottery with a million dollars to be awarded every other week through August 4. Adults who've been vaccinated are automatically entered in the drawings, the first of which was held on Wednesday.
VIEW the current list of Health Department vaccination clinics in Johnston County>
As of Tuesday, the department reports 175 active COVID-19 cases in Johnston County: 159 recovering at home and 16 in hospitals. That's up from 163 cases reported a week ago. No more COVID-related deaths were reported here during the past week.
VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>
The county has leased the left-hand portion for an expanded museum and gift shop.
Heritage Center plans to expand into former
Rose's department store building Downtown
The County Commissioners this week approved a two-year, renewable lease of 4,428 square feet of space in the former Rose's department store at Market and Fourth streets for expansion of the Johnston County Heritage Center's facilities.
Roberts & Wellons, Inc. owns the property and will be paid rent of $2,000 a month. The county will be allowed to make alterations to house the Heritage Center's museum component and a gift shop.
That move will enable the Heritage Center to move its Reading Room for researchers to the ground floor of the former First Citizens Bank headquarters now owned by the county. Renovation of that building, constructed in 1913 for the Bank of Smithfield, opened the way for the Heritage Center in 2000 to move out of its original quarters in the Public Library across the street.
Director Todd Johnson said the Heritage Center hopes to move into the Rose's space by summer's end.
RETAIL SALES: record gain in first quarter
Adding up monthly reports from the N.C. Department of Revenue, Johnston County's retail sales during the first three months of 2021 jumped 27.7% over the first quarter of 2020. That's got to be a modern-day record.
Throughout the past year, even with the coronavirus pandemic restricting many activities, Johnston's sales have consistently shown double-digit percentage increases: up 11% in the second quarter of 2020, 12.3% in the third quarter, and 12.7% in the fourth quarter.
Here are monthly totals for retail sales in Johnston County during the first quarter of 2021, with a huge jump recorded for March:
VIEW the state's monthly reports for all North Carolina counties starting in 1997>
THREE LITTLE PIGS TRIATHLON RETURNS
Here are participants setting up their bicycles early Saturday morning for the second leg of the 11th annual Three Little Pigs Triathlon, which started with a 250-yard swim inside the Recreation & Aquatics Center followed by a 12-mile bike ride out Buffalo Road to the north and a 5K (3.1-mile) run on a portion of the Buffalo Creek Greenway. Posted results show that 231 individuals finished the course while 10 relay teams made up of two or three participants made it to the finish line. The winners covered the course in just under an hour; the slowest finishers took more than two hours. The event --- a fund-raiser for Smithfield Friends of the Parks and the Central Johnston Rotary Club --- wasn't held last June because of the coronavirus pandemic. OFFICIAL RACE RESULTS are posted online>
More national awards for Johnston Health
Johnston Health, which operates hospitals at Clayton and Smithfield (formerly Johnston Memorial), has received a 5-star rating for treatment of heart attacks from Healthgrades, an agency that annually evaluates performance by 4,500 short-term, acute-care hospitals across the U.S.A.
READ the full announcement from Johnston Health>
Johnston Health has been named (again) one of America's "Best Hospitals for Outpatient Experience" by the Women's Choice Award, a national rating service that bestowed the honor to 294 hospitals nationwide this year. (Johnston Health got the same recognition last year.)
READ the full announcement from Johnston Health>
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....
FRANK AARON (SHINE) BLACKSHELL JR., 60 - died June 19
ANTHONY RAY ARCHIBLE, 64 - died June 17
MICHAEL GREY GIDDENS, 42 - died June 17
RICHARD (DICK) JOHNSON, 79 - died June 17
ELMER LEON OWENS, 87 - died June 16
JANICE MAE WISE SMITH, 82 - died June 16
PHILLIS MARIE VALDEZ, 86 - died June 15
GORDON RAY STEVENS, 76 - died December 31
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS