Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
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20,000 children eligible for vaccinations here

That estimate came from Dr. Marilyn Pearson, the county's public-health director, during her monthly COVID-19 report to the County Commissioners on Monday. On Tuesday the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control authorized and recommended the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11.

As a result, Johnston's Public Health Department began offering COVID vaccines for anyone five years of age and older this morning (Thursday) as part of its ongoing weekday clinics at the department's headquarters next door to the hospital on North Bright Leaf Boulevard. No appointments are necessary for the shots, which are administered free of charge regardless of one's insurance or immigration status.

In addition, this Saturday the Health Department will host a COVID vaccination clinic specifically for anyone 5-18 years old –  from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Smithfield's Celtic Creamery will be on site selling ice cream, the county announced.

In her report to commissioners, Dr. Pearson said Johnston's COVID caseload per 100,000 residents is down to 134 – much better than the number a month ago. But she added that the goal is to get that number down to 10 per 100,000.

"We are still, of course, in a pandemic stage," she said, "but I'm hoping that eventually we will get to an endemic stage, like flu, so we can manage this and it doesn't cause so much disruption to all our lives."

This week's report from the school system
(posted this morning) showed 68 active cases among students and staff (down slightly from 72 last week) with 219 students and 7 staff members quarantined (228 students and 8 staff were quarantined a week ago).

Schools with the most students in quarantine (as of this morning): Corinth-Holders Elementary 17, McGee's Crossroads Elementary 16, Princeton Middle/High 15, Riverwood Elementary 14, Corinth Holders High 13, Princeton Elementary and Wilson's Mills Elementary with 10 apiece.

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)
101,181: 48%*
(100,485: 48%)
5,839,740: 56%*
(5,796,977: 55*)
UNITED STATES 46,253,631
  192,931,486: 59%
(190,990,750: 58%)
WORLDWIDE 248,243,646
total doses given
* Percentage of total population (all ages)
Data provided by: County of Johnston at 9:40 a.m. November 3
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:20 p.m. November 3
Johns Hopkins University at 8:22 a.m. November 4

Unemployment rate drops to 3.3% in Johnston

That's the lowest monthly rate since the pandemic set us back a year and a half ago. According to September's employment report from the N.C. Department of Commerce, the number of Johnstonians holding jobs rose from 97,979 in August to 98,634 while the number unemployed dropped from 3,958 to 3,357. Johnston's jobless rate in September 2020 was 6.2%. Because of COVID-19's impact on the economy, the rate jumped from 4.0% in March 2020 to a pandemic peak of 11% two months later.


Hospital gets Gold Seal for treatment of strokes

Story from Johnston Health

Johnston Health has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check mark for Primary Stroke Certification.

Johnston Health underwent a rigorous onsite review on August 6. During the visit, a pair of Joint Commission reviewers evaluated compliance with related certification standards including program management and delivering and facilitating clinical care. The reviewers also conducted on-site observations and interviews.

Tom Williams, CEO and president of Johnston Health, said several teams within the hospital worked together for more than five years to put into place the many processes needed to treat stroke. Highlights along the way included implementing tele-stroke, administering the “clot-busting” medicine tPA at the bedside, and fine-tuning the Code Stroke process.

A breakthrough project for industrial recruiting
County's first "spec" building for a biotech plant on US 70 Business

Chris Johnson, the County of Johnston's economic development director, told the County Commissioners Monday that Johnston has "turned away" more than 60 industrial prospects over the past couple of years because we lacked a suitable vacant building in place to accommodate their manufacturing needs.

The lack of so-called "spec," or "speculation," structures here has given neighboring counties that provide them a leg up on Johnston's recruiting efforts, Mr. Johnson has said time and again since he began work for the county eight years ago.

That changed Monday when commissioners approved the first project under Johnston's new Speculative Building Assistance Program.

AdvanceTEC, a manufacturer of "clean rooms" used by pharmaceutical companies like Novo Nordisk and Grifols at Clayton, has agreed to construct a "spec" building on US 70 Business between Smithfield and Clayton that will house its operations and provide space for additional industrial recruits.

The county will make that happen with a commitment to lease the extra space from AdvanceTEC up to two years at $11,481 a month. If a prospect is recruited before that time is up, the county will be "off the hook" for the remaining payments.

AdvanceTEC pledges to invest at least $10 million and create at least 20 jobs paying salaries averaging at least $100,000 at its new plant here. If those goals are met, the county will rebate 50% of property taxes collected on the new facility over a five-year period, according to a second agreement approved by commissioners Monday.

The AdvanceTEC building is planned for a 12-acre site on the north side of US 70 Business near Saint Ann Catholic Church.


The Johnston County Economic Development Office provided this photo of the AdvanceTEC executive team: (left to right) Drew Fisher, director of operations South who will manage the facility here; John Burton, the company's founder; Gene Taylor, director of integration; Bryan Phelan, manager partner and director of customers; and Ted Schaper, director of operations North.

More than 800 have received rental assistance from county

Finance Director Chad McLamb reported to the County Commissioners Monday that 825 households so far have received payments from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program funded by the Federal Government's coronavirus-relief package. The total distributed so far exceeds $2.6 million, he added. The amount of funding still available for assistance to qualifying households here exceeds $10 million. Get more information about the program>

Commissioners award contract for new sewage plant

Low-bidder Adams Robinson Enterprises of Dayton, Ohio will construct the facility on county-owned land off NC 210 near the landfill. Of the $ 83.5-million project budget, $68,754,000 is for the construction contract, with the balance allocated for engineering, oversight, contingencies, and other expenses. The new plant will eventually replace the county's treatment facility on the Neuse River at Smithfield that was temporarily put out of commission by Hurricane Matthew's flooding in September 2016. The new facility's construction will be financed by a state loan offered to the county at an interest rate of 1.1% over 20 years.

Applicants sought for Chairman Stewart's replacement

The County Commissioners set a deadline of 5 p.m. next Monday for residents of Chairman Chad Stewart's district to apply for appointment by the rest of the board to fill the remaining 12 months of his current term after he gives up his seat November 30 to accept a job as manager of Johnston County's Alcoholic Beverage Control system. Mr. Stewart's district covers southeastern Johnston, extending from Four Oaks to Bentonville to Brogden to Princeton. Commissioners will consult with leaders of Johnston's Republican Party regarding the appointment since Mr. Stewart was elected as a registered Republican and his successor must follow suit.

VIEW map showing the residential districts for commissioners>

OPEN instructions for applying for the pending board vacancy>


SSS beats East Wake 44-25 for season's 7th win

Five consecutive victories for Smithfield-Selma's football Spartans produced the best regular-season record in many years for SSS: 7-3 overall, 5-2 in the first year of play in the new Quad County 3-A Conference that resulted in a three-way tie for second place with South Johnston and Wilson Fike.

Clevonte Watson scored four of the Spartans' six touchdowns against East Wake last Friday: three rushing and another on a pass reception from George Brewer. Brandon Perry and Joshua Hightower also had TD runs.

Leading the charge on defense were Hightower with 10 tackles and Jaylen Stancil with 8. The Spartans intercepted three East Wake passes – one apiece for Isaiah Dawson, Micha
el Thompson, and Perry.

This is the second season for SSS head coach Deron Donald. The Spartans won two games and lost five in last spring's COVID-shortened campaign and haven't won as many as seven games in a season since 2008.

Spartans will host rival South Johnston in playoff opener

South Johnston defeated SSS by a touchdown, 21-14, when the two conference foes met here back on Sept. 17 And even though the Spartans and Trojans tied for second place in the conference and South finished with a season record of 8-2, Smithfield-Selma got a higher seeding in the state 3-A playoffs and will host the Trojans for a second time at 7 p.m. Friday at Charles Tucker Stadium.

Tickets to the game may be purchased in advance online>


Neuse Charter girls to play for 1-A volleyball title

The Cougars won their 26th match of the season on Tuesday to advance to the state 1-A championship showdown this Saturday against Union Academy of Monroe. Game time is 6:30 p.m. at Raleigh's venerable Reynolds Coliseum.

Union has a season's record of 28 wins and two losses. Neuse Charter also has just two losses and finished 10-0 in the Carolina 1-A Conference.

REVIEW the Cougars' season along with the team's roster on MaxPreps>


October turned out to be wetter than normal

October brought a bountiful 6.15 inches of rainfall to Smithfield on the heels of a relatively dry September, bringing the total for the first 10 months of 2021 to 50.74 inches – an amount just above our average rainfall of almost 48 inches. Still, we're not likely to catch up with 2020's total, which reached 76.2 inches. Our monthly report comes from Cornell Cox's Backyard Weather Station in South Smithfield.

A visit to Holt Lake's shore late Monday afternoon captured this autumnal spectacle.


Touch-A-Truck for youngsters this Saturday Downtown

The Junior Women's League of Smithfield will host its sixth annual Touch-A-Truck event on Saturday, when children will have an opportunity to climb in and explore big rigs, emergency vehicles, construction equipment, and other machines set up in the 200 block of South Third Street Downtown from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free, with a $5 charge for passes to the Ford Companies Playland.

Standard Time returns Sunday: Turn back your clocks

The first Sunday in November, coming as late as it can this year, is set by Congress as the return to Standard Time in most states including North Carolina. Daylight Saving Time will return the second Sunday in March 2022.

School board's monthly meeting scheduled next Tuesday

The Johnston County Board of Education will convene in the Simpson Building on US 70 Business east of Smithfield at 4 p.m. for a closed session, with its open session scheduled to start at 5 p.m. VIEW the agenda once it's posted> 

Smithfield Council to get options Tuesday for redistricting

The council will meet at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. On the agenda is a decision on how Smithfield's four districts for electing council members will be redrawn in light of results from the 2020 Census. That must be settled no later than November 17 to permit the filing period to open in December for four council seats to be filled by an election delayed from this week till next March because Census results weren't available in time for candidates to sign up earlier this year.
A map of Smithfield's current electoral districts is posted on the Johnston County Board of Elections website>
Other items on the agenda for Tuesday's council session include public hearings on a proposed six-unit townhouse project at the intersection of West Market and Britt streets, Phase 2 of a single-family subdivision northeast of East Johnston and South Sixth streets, and new landscaping requirements for future single-family and townhouse developments. The council will be asked to rename South Avenue as "Dr. CJ Allen Avenue" in honor of the long-standing pastor of Mount Zion Church of Deliverance and to create a new town position of fire marshal "to provide building inspections and plan reviews for all new and existing structures," reads a memo from Fire Chief Michael Brown.
VIEW the complete agenda posted on the town's website>


Veterans Day observance at SSS will be virtual again

As was done last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Johnston County Public Schools will conduct the annual Veterans Day celebration at Smithfield-Selma High School online on the school system's Facebook and YouTube pages. The 11 a.m. program next Thursday will feature remarks by Johnston County native Pascual Goicoechea, a native of Cuba who came to the United States and served as an officer in the United States Army for 33 years, retiring in 2010 as chief of operations at Fort Bragg. Following the online event, veterans are invited to SSS between noon and 2 p.m. to receive a free curbside meal and a commemorative pin.

Veterans Day fireworks planned at Community Park

Smithfield's Parks & Recreation Department will host a Veterans Day celebration at the park from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, capped off with a fireworks display.


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

TIMOTHY PAUL PEACOCK, 65 – died November 2

KENNETH McKINLEY WILLIAMS, 63 – died November 1

PEGGY THORNTON LASSITER, 88 – died October 31

ODESSA DUNCAN BARBOUR, 92 – died October 28

KEITH LLOYD SLOCUM, 79 – died October 28

WILLIAM KEVIN SMITH, 56 – died October 27



Will county respond to calls for slower growth?

Reporting on work done so far toward updating Johnston's Land Use Plan, County Planning Director Braston Newton told county commissioners this week something they already knew:

Of more than 2,200 responses from a recent survey, Johnston's citizens "overwhelmingly say we've grown too quickly," he said.

Moreover, protection of forests and farmland ranked No. 1 among concerns about the course of Johnston's rapid suburban development, Mr. Newton reported.

Regarding residential growth in particular, a "pretty large number" of survey respondents want County Government to "discourage apartments," he noted. Working against that sentiment, he continued, is the fact that housing prices over the past five years have gone up twice as fast as wages.

Mr. Newton presented population projections for Johnston County from two government agencies: The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts growth from 2020's 215,999 to 230,444 in 2040 – an increase of 10%, while the state's Office of Management and Budget projects 309,989 in 2040 – an increase of 48% over the next 20 years.

"It's too small," exclaimed Commissioner Fred Smith, citing a recent upsurge in building permits here that portends more residents than the state's bullish forecast.

Who believes Johnston's growth will slow significantly from the 47,121 increase in population from 2010 to 2020 – the third consecutive decade of gains of that magnitude (since 1990, when I-40 was completed into Johnston from Raleigh).

Whatever commissioners decide to include in the updated Land Use Plan, it's not likely they'll build a dam against the market forces pushing more folks our way.


Fall colors are just now reaching the trees of Smithfield.
Here's a brilliant example photographed Wednesday afternoon
at the corner of South Second and Davis streets:



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