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PUBLISHED ONLINE APRIL 14, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 15

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


GOOD FRIDAY IS A HOLIDAY IN NORTH CAROLINA FOR MOST PUBLIC AGENCIES. IT IS NOT A FEDERAL HOLIDAY: BANKS AND THE POST OFFICE WILL BE OPEN.
 

Johnston's estimated population rises to 226,504

That's the latest U.S. Census estimate – for July 2021 – and it's a gain of 10,505 residents (4.86%) from the official 2020 census of 215,999. Moreover, Johnston County's one-year jump accounts for a tenth of the estimated population gain for all of North Carolina's 100 counties. The 2021 Census estimate raises the state's population by 111,774 to a new total of 10,551,162. (The recently released 2021 estimates do not include breakdowns for municipalities.)

Number of employed Johnstonians rose to 100,796 in February
That an increase of 612 from January's estimate, which topped the 100,000-mark for the first time. The N.C. Department of Commerce's monthly report shows 3,325 Johnstonians filing for unemployment insurance in February, producing a jobless rate of 3.2% – unchanged from January's rate. February's statewide rate was 3.7%. Nationwide it was 3.8%.
 



Smithfield attorney chosen to fill judicial vacancy

Governor Roy Cooper has appointed Smithfield attorney Craig James to serve as a District Court judge filling a vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Addie Rawls.

That seat is up for election this year. As a result, there's a
Republican Primary contest May 17 between Smithfield attorneys Travis Wheeler and Charlene Nelson. No Democrat filed for the position.


Because Mr. James is unaffiliated with a political party, a citizens' petition must be filed in his behalf if he wants to seek election to a full four-year term. "
If he collects the required amount of signatures by noon on May 17, his name will be on the November ballot," explained Leigh Anne Price, the county's director of elections.

The 11th Judicial District encompasses Johnston, Harnett, and Lee counties.

Attorney James has more than two decades of experience practicing in district
and superior courts. Prior to his recent work as a criminal defense attorney here, he practiced with the Law Office of Anderson Smith and served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and military research volunteer.

He received his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from North Carolina Central University.

 




Landmark event for "Smithfield's" restaurant chain

This wasn't just another ribbon cutting. It was a chance to revisit the roots of a rapidly expanding chain of restaurants that got its start in Smithfield, North Carolina.

Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q celebrated the opening of its newest restaurant on Tuesday – at a new location on North Bright Leaf Boulevard that replaces a smaller place a mile or so down the street. It's among 40 locations in a territory that extends from N.C.'s coast to Charlotte.

"We're building as hard as the banks will lend us the money," company president Lew Starling told Tuesday's gathering. The chain's next new location will open soon in the fast-growing Flowers Plantation commercial district east of Clayton, he noted.

Not to be confused with Smithfield Foods, the giant producer of pork products based in Virginia, Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q grew out of a Downtown Smithfield restaurant operated by the late Junius Moore more than half a century ago. His son Gregory is credited with designing the concept that created the chain we know today, which got its start in 1981.

Today's company is managed by another Junius Moore, grandson of the original restaurateur, who holds the title of vice president. Gregory Moore is chairman of the company's board of directors.

While the home office has been in Cary for some time now, today's Junius Moore operates out of an office in Wilmington. During his brief remarks during Tuesday's ceremony, he referred to Smithfield as "our hometown."

By the way, Mr. Starling, the company's president, is a Smithfield-based attorney who's also the long-time mayor of Clinton, where he resides.

PICTURED BELOW AT TUESDAY'S OPENING CEREMONY (left to right):
Gregory Moore, his grandson Jacob and son Junius, with Lew Starling.


 



School-enrollment gain nets an extra $3.2 million

That news was delivered to the Johnston County Board of Education last week by Chief of Financial Services Stephen Britt, who said the latest report from the state shows Johnston County Public Schools grew by 1,261 students this past year – the second highest enrollment gain in North Carolina.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction initially allotted state funding for Johnston's schools based on a projected enrollment of 36,525 students yet the number actually reached 37,270, producing an increase in state funding of $3,268,281, Mr. Britt reported.

As a result, the school board amended its annual operating budget to raise the state's share from $268,468,666 to $272,658,055 including other increases approved by the state for Johnston's pre-K program for exceptional children, Early College enrollment, and a School Safety Grant.

Most of the $3.2-million rise in the state's basic allotment will pay for an increase in teaching positions required by higher-than-expected student enrollment here.

Besides state funding, Johnston's school system this fiscal year is receiving $80,277,090 from the county and $130,205,556 from the Federal Government, according to the budget amendment adopted last week.


Johnston schools salute outstanding first-year teachers

Included among 33 nominees for the school system's annual First Year Teacher of the Year award were five from Smithfield-area schools: Stephanie L. Bushey of Smithfield Middle, Rachel Ashworth of Smithfield-Selma High, Joshua Raynor of South Smithfield Elementary, Amanda Underwood of West Smithfield Elementary, and Diane Haschke of Wilson’s Mills Elementary. Gabe Patton, a Career & Technical Education teacher of aviation at Cleveland High School, won this year's award.

Smithfield-Selma High's academic honor lists for the third quarter>
 



919-934-0153    www.CallPernell.com



CORONAVIRUS REPORT

Detection of new cases dwindling, with less reporting

From week to week, the number of COVID-19 cases in Johnston County is rising much more slowly these days. Dr. Marilyn Pearson, the county's director of public health, noted in her report to the County Commissioners last week that a contributing factor to declining case numbers is the availability of at-home testing, the results of which are not reported to authorities.

And, with cutbacks in COVID data reporting by both the County of Johnston and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Resources, you'll notice some holes in the Sun's week-to-week statistical report below:

 

CORONAVIRUS
weekly
measurements
Case total
since 3-20 
(last week)
Deaths
since 3-20 
(last week)
Hospital
patients

(last week) 
Fully vaccinated *
[got boosters]
JOHNSTON COUNTY 59,452
( 59,202)
    113,109: 54%**
[52,915: 25%**]
NORTH CAROLINA 2,639,241
(2,634,007)
23,334
(23,257)
369
(381)
6,476,986: 62%**
[3,346,523]
UNITED STATES 80,489,132
(80,249,038)
986,644
(983,817)
  218,521,227: 66.5%**
WORLDWIDE  501,363,359
(495,207,407)
6,187,371
(6,167,296)
  11,128,431,972
total doses
* 2 doses Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or 1 dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
** Percentage of total population (all ages)

Data from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 2:15 p.m. April 13
and Johns Hopkins University at 2:20 p.m. April 13
 

WHAT'S COMING UP?

County Commissioners to get more Broadband requests

Two more companies will ask for the county's support of state grant applications for expanding Internet Broadband into under-served rural areas when Johnston's Board of Commissioners meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the Courthouse. Conterra Networks and Lumos want to join two other companies – BrightSpeed and Charter (Spectrum) – that got endorsements from commissioners last month. The board agreed to contribute up to $1 million from the county's pot of federal COVID-relief funds to whichever company wins a state grant for upgraded service in Johnston. Also at Monday's session, the board will receive results of an employee-compensation study from the county's Human Resources Department. VIEW the complete agenda>

Spring Litter Sweep in Smithfield on Saturday, April 23

The Town of Smithfield is in need of volunteers to help clean up trash along roadways during the annual Spring Litter Sweep on Saturday, April 23 from 9:30 till 11:30 a.m. Held in conjunction with the N.C. Department of Transportation's statewide campaign, the town's event will begin at three starting points: Sarah Yard Community Center at 909 E. Lee Street, Bob Wallace Jaycee Kiddie Park at 350 S. Second Street, and Smithfield Community Park at 700 M. Durwood Stephenson Parkway. In addition to taking part in Smithfield’s Spring Litter Sweep, civic organizations, businesses, churches, and other groups are encouraged to join the town's Adopt-A-Street program to help keep our roadways clean. For application forms, visit www.smithfield-nc.com/page/Adopt-A-Street.
 

Register of Deeds offers free document shredding April 23

The annual Shred Event held by the Johnston County Register of Deeds office is set for Saturday, April 23 from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m. in the parking lot at Smithfield-Selma High School. "These annual shred events provide our citizens a free way to dispose of personal and sensitive information," explained Register of Deeds Craig Olive. "The shredding of documents is a proactive way to protect your identity." (Good timing after this coming Monday's deadline for filing personal income-tax returns.) If you have questions about what ought to be shredded, call 919-989-5160.
 


IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND
A KEY COMPONENT OF JOHNSTON COUNTY'S PROUD AGRICULTURAL HERITAGE...


here's a good place to start your quest: Promise of Better Days: A farm boy's odyssey through North Carolina's "Tobacco Way of Life" – the memoirs of Bentonville native Cornell Woodall Cox.


On sale at the Johnston County Heritage Center and also through Amazon (with proceeds benefiting the Future Farmers of America)



DEATHS & FUNERALS

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

FREDDIE RONALD STRICKLAND SR., 94 – died April 11

EDITH POWELL WILKINS, 89 – died April 10

FLORETTE B. LANGLEY, 87 – died April 9

GREGORY JEROME MORRIS, 55 – died April 8

MARJORIE DICKINSON LANGSTON, 96 – died April 7

THEATRICE SANDERS SNEAD, 83 – died April 7

 



A WORD (OR TWO) FROM THE EDITOR

Two more reasons for Smithfield's potential growth

A multi-page "Sponsored Section" in the April edition of Business North Carolina magazine includes a couple of advertisements that bode well for the future of central Johnston County's economic development. It's a section on "Industrial Parks NC" that features two such emerging places not far from Smithfield's borders.

One is Four Oaks Business Park on the eastern side of I-95 that offers "170 acres available" with "all utilities on site... competitively priced at $31,250 per acre." That ad is jointly sponsored by Johnston County's Economic Development Office and the I-95/I-40 Crossroads of America Economic Development Alliance, a promotional effort spearheaded by the towns of Four Oaks and Dunn. Presently, that industrial park hosts a Becton Dickinson distribution center for medical products.

The other is Eastfield Business Park encompassing a huge tract of land between Selma and Pine Level where one major structure is presently under construction. AdVenture Development, LLC is heading that effort, promoted jointly with the County of Johnston. Besides the usual appeals to the site's location near I-95 between Maine and Florida with "international airports nearby" and "major port access within two hours," this advertisement also touts "north, south, east, and west rail access with spur connection in the park" thanks to a recent grant from the North Carolina Railroad Company.

Smithfield has recently seen an upsurge in interest among developers in new residential subdivisions within the town's jurisdiction. The Amazon distribution center in West Smithfield has certainly brought more attention to our neck of the woods, and our proximity to those expanding pharmaceutical plans this side of Clayton have drawn more potential residents to look us over.

The promising projects at Four Oaks and Selma are two more reasons we may be on the verge of a job-creating surge the likes of which Smithfield hasn't seen since the 1970s. If that can lessen the daily grind of folks commuting westward to where most new jobs have cropped up over the past half century, we'll all be better off.

 



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