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PUBLISHED ONLINE JULY 21, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 28

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


Draft of county's new Land Use Plan unveiled
One goal is channeling growth closer to municipalities

Among key points in the proposal are recommended policies to encourage residential development around existing municipalities coupled with restrictions on how much will be permitted in outlying rural areas.

Another is to steer commercial projects to suburban "activity nodes" rather than "strip" retail and office developments spread throughout the county.

Yet another is to keep agriculture "viable" so farming may "continue to thrive." Coupled with that are calls for preserving Johnston's "rural character" and protecting open space to provide more opportunities for recreation.

Those ideas reflect consensus gleaned from several public forums and online surveys conducted in recent months by the county's Planning Department with guidance from a citizens' steering committee and technical assistance from Nealon Planning LLC, a consulting firm employed by the county.

Just 27% of Johnstonians say they're "satisfied" with the "overall appearance" of the county's current round of real-estate development, consultants reported at the most recent forum, held June 29.

Next steps toward adoption of a new Land Use Plan are a review of the draft by the county's Planning Board followed by submission of the document to the County Commissioners, who will have the final say before it's adopted as county policy.

VIEW the plan's draft as it now stands including a link to one last public survey>



This large pipeline being installed alongside Swift Creek Road near the airport is one of several such projects recently authorized in response to Johnston County's rapid residential growth. This particular line will carry sewage to the county's new treatment plant under construction near the landfill west of Smithfield. Meanwhile, the county is about to expand its water-filtration plant near Wilson's Mills. An expansion of the Town of Smithfield's water plant is already under construction.


Commissioners get annual report on child fatalities in Johnston
At Monday's morning session, Johnston's County Commissioners received the annual report from the county's Child Fatality Prevention Team. Of 21 deaths investigated in 2021, three were caused by drowning, two by "unsafe sleep environments," one by suicide (a teen), one by motor-vehicle accident, and others "attributed to illnesses in the newborn, prematurity, or prenatal conditions."

In response to child fatalities resulting from "co-sleeping with parents or siblings due to lack of resources or cultural norms," the Johnston County Public Health Department has secured a grant to purchase "pack-n-plays" for low-income families, reported Kathleen Lanc, the Prevention Team's review coordinator who's also a member of the county's Board of Health.

Commissioner Tony Braswell bemoaned what he sees as a lack of adolescent and mental-health services and facilities in this county.


End of decals for garbage disposal postponed another year
Following a recommendation from County Manager Rick Hester, commissioners voted 5-2 to postpone expiration of the county's decal system for do-it-yourself garbage disposal beyond next June 30 as had been announced this past year.

"Since we don't have an alternative funding method coupled with the fact we have a vacancy in our solid-waste director position, we felt it was best to delay things until further notice," Mr. Hester explained. "That way, folks that are buying 12-month decals will know what's happening."

Commissioners Ted Godwin and Tony Braswell voted against the postponement. "I think it's a disservice to put this off," declared Mr. Godwin, who said Johnston ought to follow what other counties are doing and no longer charge the $100 annual fee to drop off garbage and trash at the county's "convenience centers."

READ a summary of all items addressed during Monday's morning session>


Speakers question status of commissioner charged with crime
Three citizens who addressed the board during the "Public Comments" segment of Monday's evening session asked why Commissioner Dickie Braswell has not been suspended from office or prompted to resign following a criminal charge filed against him June 29 for taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Board members, including Mr. Braswell, did not respond to speakers Joe Preston, Joey Marie, and Christine Livingston.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Braswell's name will remain on November's ballot for election to a full four-year term unless he withdraws by early August when ballots are printed. If that happens, the Johnston County Republican Party would nominate a replacement who would almost assuredly win election since Mr. Braswell has no Democratic opposition.

Mr. Braswell (no relation to fellow Commissioner Tony Braswell) was appointed to the board last November to replace Chad Stewart, who gave up his seat to accept a job as manager of Johnston's ABC system.

 

Portrait of Judge Addie Rawls
to be hung in the Courthouse

The County Commissioners adopted a resolution honoring recently retired District Court Judge Addie Harris Rawls and authorized the hanging of her portrait alongside those of other distinguished former judges inside the main courtroom of Johnston's 100-year-old Courthouse. Ms. Rawls served as District Court judge from her election in 2002 until her retirement January 31. She is the first African-American woman to hold the office of district judge in Johnston County.

(Screenshot from YouTube broadcast of Monday evening's session of the Board of Commissioners)


 READ a summary of all items addressed during Monday's evening session>

 
 
SAY HELLO TO OUR NEWEST SPONSOR (click on the logo to access the website)
 

 

Teachers say school-bond issue won't be enough
County Commissioners set Nov. referendum at $177 million

Only two citizens, speaking as public-school teachers, voiced opinions during Monday's public hearing on the proposed $177-million county bond issue for Johnston's schools. Both of them said the amount falls short of what's needed.

"We are woefully under-funding our public schools," declared April Lee, a math teacher at Four Oaks Middle School who often appears before the county's governing boards as president of Johnston's Association of Educators. "Inadequate facilities and services are going to lead to more charter and private schools," she predicted.

Jeanie Aday identified herself as a former Johnston teacher who "didn't last very long" because of "the resource gap" besetting the county's schools. She said her classroom had 23 desks for 37 students the first year she taught, and said her school was so overcrowded "it took 20 minutes to get out in a fire drill."

Despite their last-minute pleas, commissioners voted 6-1 to put a $177-million bond issue before Johnston's voters in this November's general election. Commissioner Fred Smith cast the lone vote against Monday's resolution as he did on a preliminary bond resolution adopted in May when he questioned the validity of growth projections for Johnston's student population. He argued that $150 million would be enough for immediate school-facility needs.

Johnston's Board of Education initially asked that a $253.5-million issue be put on the ballot this fall, with two more to follow by the end of the decade to meet a list of anticipated construction needs totaling $720 million.

A detailed list of projects to be funded with approval of the initial $177-million bond issue have yet to be shared with the public. Priorities at this point appear to be a new high school in the Wilson's Mills-Powhatan area and a new elementary school in the Swift Creek area south of Clayton.


VIEW the Smithfield-Selma High School Principal's List and Honor Roll for the fourth and final quarter of the 2021-22 school year>

 



There's good reason
you continue to see
this sign in many yards
around Smithfield.

Call Pernell.com
and you'll find out why.

 


WHAT'S COMING UP?

Friday's Movie in the Park: "A League of Their Own"

Smithfield's Parks and Recreation Department will present "A League of Their Own" at sundown Friday at Community Park as part of its summertime Movie in the Park series. There's no charge for admission, and you're invited to bring your own picnics and lawn chairs.

Meeting on county's Regional Park Plan next Tuesday

The County of Johnston's Parks, Greenways, and Open Space Office will hold a public meeting for its Regional Park Master Plan currently under development next Tuesday (July 26) from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Greater Cleveland Athletic Association picnic shelter located at 8994 Cleveland Road. For more information about the plan, visit https://www.johnstoncountyregionalpark.org/.


Drone's-eye view of the heart of the original Cleveland School community, showing the former school campus including its gymnasium to the left and ballfields in back where the county will conduct next Tuesday's public meeting on a plan for a nearby park on recently acquired acreage. (County of Johnston photo)
 



DEATHS & FUNERALS

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

SARA ANN KEENAN DOVE, 85 – died July 19

CATHERINE ELAINE OLIVER WILDER, 49 – died July 19

CLAUDE THOMAS (TOM) HARRIS, 79 – died July 18

JERRY DEAN BRASWELL, 66 – died July 17

RONALD LEE (PETE) COE JR., 87 – died July 17

JOYCE BAILEY KEENE, 79 – died July 14

IRENE PAGE SMITH STEVENS, 103 – died July 13

JOSEPHINE PILKINGTON GODWIN, 72 – died July 8

 


LAND FOR SALE
IN WEST SMITHFIELD


2.4-acre vacant lot at 1558 W. Market Street (US 70 Business). Mostly level with 323-foot road frontage. Less than 3 miles from Johnston Regional Airport, about 5 miles from I-95: $525,000  (MLS#2447472)

SUSAN LASSITER, Broker • FONVILLE MORISEY REALTY • 919-669-9235



A WORD (OR TWO) FROM THE EDITOR

On Johnston County's most pressing public issue

The "Public Comments" portion of Monday's evening session of the County Commissioners produced a preview of what's to come when the board conducts a yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing on the county's new Comprehensive Land Use Plan currently in "draft" form.

More and more citizens are speaking out against rampant residential development that threatens to undermine Johnston's "rural character." They're alarmed by mounting traffic on our roads, overcrowded public schools, and declining agriculture.

The commissioners heard impassioned pleas from several of those folks this week. Jill Parker expressed fears about a proposed subdivision "spitting up" her farm near Four Oaks that's been in the family since the 1780s. Jim Wiesner of the Wilson's Mills area told commissioners "we're going backward" by allowing unchecked subdivision growth. Christine Livingstone of McGee's Crossroads called for "a moratorium on housing development for at least 12 months."

Those concerns are weighing heavily on the minds of commissioners as they approach a day of reckoning on what's to be included in a revised Land Use Plan.

"We've often heard it said, and we've said it in here: If you're not growing you're dying," said Commissioner Ted Godwin during Monday's morning session. "But I've been thinking about it a lot lately... and I'm beginning to rethink that whole truism....

"If you're not growing maybe you're getting smarter, maybe you're repositioning things, maybe you're using your work force better," he continued. "I'm not sure that less growth or stopping growth is going to mean that we're dying. Growth to me doesn't necessarily mean size but in smarts and how we do things...."

Growth's bottom line: "What's it doing to our quality of life?" Mr. Godwin asked.

If you've got an opinion, the county is offering one last online survey to get your thoughts (and Friday may be the last day it's available). Here's the link to it>

 



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