PUBLISHED ONLINE APRIL 28, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 17

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

It's a mural created by "Jeks" (a.k.a. Brian Lewis), a Greensboro artist commissioned to fill the open side of the museum with images based on photographs taken at various stages of the movie star's life. The mural is part of this year's commemoration of Ava's birth 100 years ago – on Christmas Eve in 1922. Raised in Johnston County's Brogden community, she lived out her life in London where she died in 1990. LEARN MORE by visiting the museum's website>

Town's "draft" budget avoids rate hikes

That includes Smithfield's property-tax rate as well as the town's electricity and water rates. Uncertain at this point are sewer rates, which may rise if the County of Johnston increases what it charges municipalities for wastewater treatment.

Town Manager Mike Scott presented a 2022-23 "draft" budget at the Town Council's first budget session of the season Monday evening. The council is required to adopt a new spending plan before July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

The proposed budget now under consideration includes 2% pay raises for all town employees in July with individual merit raises up to 3% in January. It also includes funding to re-instate "longevity pay," which was suspended several years ago. That extra compensation would be $100 for each year of service, starting at five years with a benefit cap of 25 years, for all full-time town employees.

No additional personnel positions are included in the budget at this point, the town manager told the council Monday. He said requests have been submitted for six additional firefighters, a "line locator" for the Water and Sewer staff, and an assistant town manager.

More than a million dollars would be taken from the town's reserves for a "fire rescue" truck and a replacement sanitation truck, but the General Fund balance would remain well above requirements of the N.C. Local Government Commission, Mr. Scott noted.

The council made no decisions Monday on the new budget but did approve an expenditure of $39,875 from the current year's contingency fund to purchase a used pump for transferring water from the Neuse River to a reservoir at the Water Treatment Plant. Utilities Director Ted Credle said the purchase will provide an extra layer of backup if both of two pumps already in service were to fail.

An "increase in sand" in the river over the past couple of years has been impeding operation of the pumps, Mr. Credle noted.


Terri and John Bilott have moved their antique pew-storing operation to a storefront on Third Street that also features a variety of other historical collectibles.

Two home-based startups choose Downtown

Both started out in rural residences in western Johnston County – one focused on collecting and restoring discarded church pews, the other on trendy women's clothing and accessories – and chose to relocate in larger, more visible quarters in the heart of Downtown Smithfield.

The Twisted Willow at 119 South Third Street and the Dragonfly Boutique at 228 East Market held grand openings last weekend.

Terri and John Bilott initially made their mark scouring the Eastern Seaboard for church pews they refinish for sale to anyone looking for unique old furniture with some history behind it. That work got the attention of WRAL-TV's "Tar Heel Traveler" Scott Mason who featured the couple in a telecast earlier this year that's still archived online for viewing>

The Bilotts have purchased the spacious old building they occupy and have plans to create an outdoor beer and wine garden in the rear portion where only the exterior walls still stand (without a roof). That structure is perhaps best remembered as the mid-20th Century home of Smithfield's Western Auto store.

Brittany Lucas began selling women's clothing online from her residence before moving into leased space on Market Street next to Gotham's Deli.

"The Dragonfly Boutique was a dream I've had since a young child," she writes on her website. "Each product has been hand picked by me, adding... my own style and flare into each item." 

MORE about her merchandise is posted on the shop's website>

Downtown Development Director pointed out that Dragonfly is the fourth women's boutique to open in recent months in Smithfield's central business district. The others are Boutique 12/20 at 129 North Second Street, Classy C's at 331 East Market, and Urban Misfits at 109 South Third.


Number of employed Johnstonians rose to 102,278 in March
That an increase of 1,452 from February's estimate, producing a jobless rate of 3.1% for March – down from 3.2% a month earlier. The N.C. Department of Commerce's monthly report shows 3,236 Johnstonians filing for unemployment insurance last month – down from 3,325 in February. Johnston's 3.1% jobless rate in March was below the statewide rate of 3.6%, which was also the rate nationwide.

FOR SALE: Cherished 4-bedroom brick ranch on half-acre landscaped lot at 707 Crescent Drive in South Smithfield. Includes office, all appliances, stair lifts, wired workshop, 2-car carport, greenhouse. 2,936 square feet: $399,000



A pause, if not the end, for these weekly reports

With reports of new cases on the decline and cutbacks in statistical reporting, especially at the county level, the Sun elects to forego these weekly updates for the time being. We'll keep monitoring reports from the state (the county no longer posts weekly reports). And if there's a resurgence of infections we'll resume publishing the table below along with any advisories from county and state officials.

Meanwhile, if you want to keep track of things on your own, follow the links below to the latest reports posted by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Johns Hopkins University as well as Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS).

This morning's report from Johnston's school system showed 8 active COVID-19 cases among students and 3 among staffs – none of those cases at schools in the Smithfield area. VIEW the JCPS dashboard with the latest data for all schools>

Case total
since 3-20
(prev. week)
since 3-20
(prev. week)

(prev. week)
Fully vaccinated *
[got boosters]
( 59, 537)
113,288: 54%**
6,489,215: 62%**
UNITED STATES 81,131,710
WORLDWIDE 511,428,864
total doses
* 2 doses Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or 1 dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
** Percentage of total population (all ages)
*** Weekly average through last Friday (numbers for counties not reported)

Data from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:15 p.m. April 27
and Johns Hopkins University at 2:20 p.m. April 27

Community College names interim president

Kenneth Boham will begin serving as interim president of Johnston Community College May 16.

"Dr. Boham was chosen to serve in this role based on his stellar career," stated Lyn Austin, chair of the JCC Board of Trustees. "He has over 40 years of experience serving North Carolina community colleges, both as a sitting president and in the interim capacity. The board feels confident he is the best leader for JCC during this time of transition."

JCC President David Johnson announced his resignation April 15, effective May 15. He has been the school's leader for 13 years.
Dr. Boham served as president of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute for more than 20 years. He was named North Carolina's Community College System President of the Year in 2003 and received the I.E. Ready Distinguished Graduate Award from N.C. State in 1998.


Ruffin Johnson shares life-long
interest in Native American lore

He grew up exploring Smithfield's Neuse River and the woods around it, expanded his horizons during a tour of duty at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, and today enjoys sharing his Indian artifacts and knowledge of Native American history with anyone who's willing to listen, including Gary Ridout, a regular contributor to the literature of the Smithfield Weekly Sun.
READ Gary's recent interview with Ruffin on the FEATURE PAGE>



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things really get hot.




Downtown Wine Walk this Friday will benefit Harbor

The Spring fund-raiser to benefit the non-profit agency that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault continues from 6 to 9 p.m. and includes stops at 11 Downtown locations. Details are posted on the Town of Smithfield website>

A chance to meet a West Smithfield council candidate

Doris Louise Wallace is challenging Town Councilman David Barbour's bid for re-election this year. She will "meet and greet" potential voters from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Democratic Party headquarters at 1302 West Market Street (although contests for municipal offices here are nonpartisan). The two candidates seek to represent District 4 (West Smithfield) on the Town Council. Only one other race for council seats is being contested in the May 17 election. Sloan Stevens and Elizabeth Anne Temple are seeking the District 2 (South Smithfield) seat. Only residents of those districts may participate in electing their council representative.

County Commissioners to set size of school-bond issue

On the agenda for Monday's 10 a.m. meeting at the Courthouse are resolutions authorizing a county school-bond issue that would go before Johnston's voters this November. The amount of the issue will be determined at Monday's session. Johnston's Board of Education has requested $253 million.
VIEW the complete agenda for the 10 a.m. meeting>
At Monday's 6 p.m. session, the board will consider requests from two more companies – AT&T and CloudWyze – seeking the county's endorsement of their applications for state grants to expand Internet Broadband into under-served areas of Johnston. Four other companies have previously received the commissioners' backing. Two requests for conditional zoning of properties in Pleasant Grove Township are also on the evening agenda.
VIEW the complete agenda for the 6 p.m. meeting>

Town Council to get amphitheater proposal Tuesday

On the agenda for Tuesday's 7 p.m. regular monthly meeting at Town Hall is a request from the Parks and Recreation Department for the council's approval of a design-build contract with Balbour Beatty Construction of Raleigh for reconstructing the Town Commons amphitheater at a cost not to exceed $989,500, the amount of a grant from the N.C. General Assembly for the project. A public hearing is also scheduled on a request to rezone 0.35 of an acre near the intersection of Edgerton Street and North Bright Leaf Boulevard from B-3 Business to R-8 Residential.
VIEW the complete agenda for Tuesday's meeting>



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

JAMES CLAUDE EASON JR., 76 – died April 26

THELMA GRAYE HUNTER, 84 – died April 26


WILLIAM RICHARD TURNER, 92 – died April 20



Downtown restaurants' remarkable resiliency

Predictions of widespread small-business failures accompanied the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago. Restaurants, especially, appeared vulnerable to the shutdowns that were ordered to stem the rising tide of infections.

So look what happened to Downtown Smithfield's established and emerging eateries: They've all survived! How did that happen?

First of all, credit customer loyalty. Many folks realized early on what these businesses were up against and continued to patronize them as best they could.

The Town of Smithfield helped by designating on-street parking spaces in front of all the eating places for customer pickups (marked by signs like those pictured here). And the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation (DSDC) provided a boost with its "Third StrEATery" dining-on-the-street event that returned for a second season this past Friday (to continue monthly through September).

Perhaps proprietors also took advantage of grants and loans from federal and state governments to stay afloat till things got better. Have we forgotten how important that taxpayer-financed aid was in keeping the pandemic-burdened U.S. economy out of another Great Depression?

Because of all those efforts, we've got a vibrant Downtown ready and eager to receive this spring's revival of Smithfield's Ham & Yam Festival – coming up Saturday, May 7 after a three-year break because of COVID. That in itself is cause for a celebration.

Posted on the DSDC website is a list of Downtown's restaurants and bars>


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