PUBLISHED ONLINE OCTOBER 21, 2021   •   VOL. 3, NO. 42

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link to e-mail the editor)



The holding pond in the wetlands beside Spring Branch below the Bob Wallace Jaycee Kiddie Park and the Girl Scout Hut has gotten a pea-green coating in recent weeks, apparently the result of nutrients draining from nearby higher ground and overflows from the creek. And that's the pond's purpose: to slow down if not block such pollutants from flowing directly into the nearby Neuse River. But it surely looks like some mysterious Halloween concoction, doesn't it?


Building permits soar; more inspectors OK'd

The number of property inspections as well as building permits issued by the County of Johnston has doubled over the past five years, despite the coronavirus pandemic. (And that includes inspections and permits not only for the county's suburban and rural areas but also for all of Johnston's municipalities, including Smithfield, except for Clayton and Four Oaks.)

County Manager Rick Hester made that report during Monday's meeting of the County  Commissioners. In response, the board approved employment of two more inspectors in addition to the 19 already on the job.

Mr. Hester pointed out that the cost to the county of hiring two more inspectors will be covered by fees collected for the permits they'll produce.

This past year (fiscal 2020-21) the county completed 97,822 property inspections related to either new construction or structure renovations and issued 8,694 building permits. Five years ago those numbers were 45,137 and 4,712, and the 2021 totals were significantly above last year's 74,675 inspections and 7,177 permits.

VIEW a table showing yearly inspection and permit totals starting with 2000>

County approves tax incentives for Clayton office project

Commissioners approved an agreement with Davis Park Leasing, LLC of Cary offering property-tax rebates in return for construction of at least 525,000 square feet of "Class A" office space near the interchange of the US 70 Bypass and NC 42 west of Clayton that will provide at least 100 new jobs.

Commissioners were told that salaries of those to be employed would average $55,000 – above Johnston's current average of about $42,000 – and that the tax incentives were key in securing the project in competition with surrounding counties. No objections to the agreement were voiced during a public hearing on the proposal.


County gets $500,000 grant for Cleveland park project

Adrian Branch, the county's parks, greenways, and open-space coordinator, told commissioners the county will receive a $500,000 federal grant to be added to an earlier state grant of $500,000 to help offset the cost of a $1.6-million purchase of a 70-acre future park site in Cleveland Township.

Work is expected to begin early next year on a master plan for development of the site at the intersection of Matthews and Polenta roads.

LEARN MORE about the county's work to expand recreation throughout Johnston>



Fewer hospitalizations making room for electives

The number of Johnstonians hospitalized for COVID-related treatment was down to 25 this week – the lowest number since mid-July and well below a peak of 86 reported by the county on September 7. As a result, Johnston Health is moving to re-open its facilities to elective surgeries and other procedures put on hold back in mid-August because of limited availability of inpatient beds.

Also, starting this week, Johnston Health is offering monoclonal antibody therapy for patients who test positive for COVID-19 and have mild symptoms. That service is available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Appointments may be made by phoning 919-938-7749.

This week's report from the school system (posted this morning) showed 69 active cases among students and staff (down slightly from 73 last week) with 279 students and 11 staff members quarantined (326 students and 16 staff were quarantined a week ago).

Schools with the most students in quarantine (as of this morning): McGee's Crossroads Elementary 23, West View Elementary 19, River Dell Elementary 15. Among schools with the fewest students in quarantine, South Smithfield Elementary reported just one student kept at home. West Smithfield Elementary and Smithfield Middle each reported 13, Smithfield-Selma High 8, Wilson's Mills Elementary 5.

VIEW the school system's COVID dashboard with data for all schools>
VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics in Johnston County>

VIEW the current list of testing sites in Johnston County>


Case total
since 3-20 
(last week)
since 3-20 
(last week)

(last week) 

(last week)
99,678: 48%*
(98,398: 47%)
5,751,445: 55%*
(5,682,740: 54%*)
UNITED STATES 45,220,057
  189,141,481: 58%
(187,937,559: 57%)
WORLDWIDE 242,163,439
total doses given
* Percentage of total population (all ages)
Data provided by: County of Johnston at 5:10.m. October 19
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 11:55 a.m. October 20
Johns Hopkins University at 8:21 a.m. October 21

Hospitals 5-star rated for heart-attack treatments

Johnston Health, operator of hospitals at Smithfield and Clayton, has earned a 5-star rating for treatment of heart attacks, according to new research released by Healthgrades, a national medical-care rating service.

"This analysis shows that patients treated at hospitals receiving a 5-star rating have a lower risk of mortality and a lower risk of experiencing one or more complications during a hospital stay than if they were treated at hospitals receiving a 1-star rating in that procedure or condition," reads the announcement from Johnston Health.

For the reporting period 2018-2020, patients treated for heart attack in 5-star-rated hospitals have on average a 49.6% lower risk of dying than if they were treated in hospitals with 1-star ratings, the announcement notes.

For its analysis, Healthgrades evaluated approximately 45-million Medicare inpatient records for nearly 4,500 short-term acute-care hospitals nationwide to assess performance in 31 common conditions and procedures.

Johnston Health is part of the UNC Health Care System. Its Smithfield hospital, owned by the County of Johnston, was formerly Johnston Memorial Hospital.


DSDC director saluted as an N.C. "trailblazer"

Sarah Edwards, the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation's executive director, is featured in the current edition of Business North Carolina magazine as one of 21 "trailblazers" identified as "champions of smaller North Carolina towns."

"Wearing many hats, Edwards works to recruit and retain businesses, improve the downtown's vibrancy and pedestrian-friendliness, plan events and promotions, and build broad-based support for the organization," the magazine notes.

Over the past couple of years, it continues, she "implemented the #SmithfieldStrong campaign (on social media), which resulted in thousands of dollars in revenue for downtown businesses, and developed programs to led to $28,500 in grants to help stabilize local companies during the (coronavirus) pandemic."

Ms. Edwards has been DSDC's executive director since 2013, having joined the organization in 2009 under Director Chris Johnson, who presently heads the County of Johnston's Economic Development Office.


SSS blasts Southern Wayne 64-0 for fifth win

The Spartans are now 5-3 overall, 3-2 in Quad County 3-A Conference play following Friday's blowout, with two games left in the season (which could be extended by a berth in the state playoffs).

SSS gained 225 yards on the ground against Southern Wayne, including three touchdown runs by Brandon Perry (102 total yards rushing) and one TD apiece by Clevonte Watson, Deshawn McCullough, and Jaden Boone.

Quarterback McCullough completed 6 of 7 passes for 159 total yards, including two for touchdowns – one to Isaiah Dawson, the other to Daniel Dawson. The Spartans also scored on a blocked punt by Michael Thompson.

On defense, Jaylen Stancil had 8 solo tackles, Jeremiah Hatley 7, and Joshua Hightower 6.

Next up for the Spartans is Friday's intra-conference contest at home against Wayne County's Charles B. Aycock High. The Golden Falcons won their first game last Friday, surprising West Johnston 35-20. (SSS beat West by a similar score two weeks ago: 33-20.)

MORE about SSS football on the MaxPreps website>


Spartan Regiment a winner in competition at Annapolis

Smithfield-Selma High School's marching band won first place at the Regional US Bands Naval Academy Invitational last weekend in Maryland.

"The Spartan Regiment is a young group this year with only 13 seniors out of 108 students. We are really proud of their hard work!" exclaimed SSS Principal David Allen.



Ghost Walk returns to Riverside Cemetery next Thursday

Last year's annual Heritage Center Ghost Walk was a virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year it will take place "live" once again in Riverside Cemetery, starting at 6 p.m. October 28. This year's line-up of Johnstonians making an "appearance": Bettie Morgan Brown, a pioneer African-American teacher (portrayed by Crystal Kimpson Roberts); Dora Hood Kirkman, who witnessed the last major battle of the Civil War (portrayed by Eleanor Wallace Starling, her great-granddaughter); legendary 19th Century prankster Eli Olive (portrayed by Shaun Braswell); Colin Hamilton Sr., a Clayton blacksmith whose son became a General in the U.S. Army (portrayed by Amos Tucker); and Dr. Charles Furlong, Johnston County’s only African-American physician for much of the 20th Century (portrayed by Haywood Watson). Admission charge is $5 for adults and $3 for students, payable at the event, which begins at the corner of South Second and Church streets. No advance tickets will be sold.

Parks & Rec's Halloween events start next Thursday

Here's the lineup for activities planned by the Town of Smithfield's Parks & Recreation Department:
Thursday, Oct. 28 – Egg Haunt, 7 p.m. Community Park baseball fields.
Friday, Oct. 29 – Boo Bash, 4-6:30 p.m., Sarah Yard Community Center.
Saturday, Oct. 30 – Trunk or Treat, 10:30-12:30, Community Park.
The Town of Smithfield has set trick-or-treating hours for 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31.



Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home

BRENDA SUE PENDER SHEETS, 76 – died October 18

JESSIE (JET) BATTEN ATKINSON, 89 – died October 17

SHERRIE ANN JACKSON, 66 – died October 17

SUSAN C. GARNER, 75 – died October 16

ARLON GLENN THOMPSON, 62 – died October 15

PENELOPE LYNN BRYANT, 78 – died October 13

REV. REPSIE THOMPSON JOHNSON, 91 – died October 13


The story of a long-time Smithfield family business

Elizabeth Sawrey's father started Automotive Parts Company in 1935; today her son runs the business.
Her memories about the company and its evolution over nine decades are recounted an interview with Gary Ridout, who has been compiling stories of Holt Lake residents in recent years and sharing them with the Weekly Sun.

Gary's transcript of the interview with Ms. Sawrey, along with historical photos, on the FEATURE PAGE>



What's the future for Johnston County's towns?

It wasn't really "news" because it's been going on ever since I-40 opened into Johnston County 30 years ago. Even so, it's still an amazing set of numbers as we observe the explosive residential growth going on in Johnston County just now.

Here's what those numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census show us: Of the 47,121 residents added to Johnston's population over the past 10 years, 34,069 of them moved into houses located in the county's unincorporated suburban and rural areas.

And of the 13,052 who moved into our towns, 10,191 located within the corporate limits of Clayton. Just 326 residents were added to the Town of Smithfield from 2010 to 2020, trailing Benson which added 656, newly incorporated Archer Lodge with 505, and Pine Level with 346.

The flood of new residents filling up those suburban lots, mostly in northwestern Johnston near Wake County, is a matter of great concern to the County Commissioners, who have ordered a revamping of the county's land-use regulations to steer more of that residential to the towns that are more likely to provide the infrastructure to handle the inevitable growth.

The Town of Smithfield, especially, appears to be focused on preparing for more residents, with current work under way to expand the water plant, the police station, and its parks and recreational facilities.

The evidence is already before us that the next 10 years will bring more than 326 new residents to town. Well over a thousand new housing units are planned for subdivisions recently approved within Smithfield's jurisdiction, many of those near the Amazon distribution center under construction.

We'll likely not catch up with Clayton by the 2030 Census, but it will be something to see what Smithfield looks like when this decade is done.


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