PUBLISHED ONLINE AUGUST 18, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 32

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

Crimson crape myrtles flowering beside First Presbyterian Church on South Third Street are among many showing their colors throughout Smithfield these days. August isn't famous around here for its natural beauty as summer begins to fade (thank goodness). That makes our crape myrtles more appreciated just now. The past week's break from a long hot spell also lifts our spirits, does it not?

Schools' budget adopted but not quite finished

With the state's annual appropriation to Johnston County Public Schools now known, the Johnston County Board of Education last week adopted the school system's budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year that began July 1. And yet, a couple of large items remain unsettled:

First up is formal approval by the County Commissioners of an $8-million transfer of money left over in the past year's Current Expense Fund into the new year's Capital Outlay Fund. A joint resolution authorizing that transfer was adopted by the school board on June 29 but has not been brought to the commissioners for their concurrence.

The $8-million shift was agreed upon by commissioners and school board members during behind-the-scenes budget negotiations this spring but wasn't mentioned when commissioners adopted the 2022-23 county budget by unanimous vote June 20. The new budget allocates nothing for the schools' Capital Outlay Fund this year.

Patrick Harris, who served as the commissioners' liaison with school officials during budget talks, confirmed during this week's county board meeting that the $8-million transfer was part of the final funding agreement. "We chose not to fund capital because we wanted (the school board) to pare that fund balance down," he said during Monday's session, referring to school-system reserves that were estimated to be above $30 million at the time.

Commissioner Fred Smith, who brought up the transfer issue near the close of Monday's meeting, complained that the agreement should have been presented during an open session of the Board of Commissioners. "Those things need to be talked about in this room, not on the phone," he said.

As a result of Monday's discussion, school officials will be asked to present their case for the $8-million transfer at an upcoming meeting of the commissioners. (Their next scheduled session is on the calendar for Tuesday, September 6.)

The second unsettled number in the 2022-23 budget is this year's state appropriation, which covers most of the cost of operating Johnston's schools, including most teachers' salaries.

The schools' budget adopted last week includes a state appropriation of $281,724,605 for Current Expense. But Chief of Finance Stephen Britt warned the school board that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction may take back a chunk of that money if actual enrollment in Johnston's schools falls short of the department's projection of 38,000 students. That's likely, he said, especially with the opening of another charter school here (privately owned and operated American Leadership Academy that's nearing completion on US 70 Business west of Smithfield.)

It could be "a multi-million-dollar reversion of state funds coming in December," Mr. Britt warned.

Supplementing the state's appropriation for Johnston's school operations is an appropriation of $85,573,000 in the 2022-23 County of Johnston budget and a transfer of $2,631,762 from the school system's Current Expense Fund Balance. The county's support is almost $5.7 million more than what commissioners granted last year.

Federal aid for Johnston's school operations is budgeted at $8,633,104 this year.

The school system's Capital Outlay budget for the year ahead totals $20,444,548 and presumably includes the $8-million transfer as well as remaining projects to be funded with school bonds authorized by the county's voters in 2018. Another bond issue – for $177 million – is on the ballot for November's General Election.



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)



County Commissioners ponder sewer allocations

Is Johnston County in danger of running out of sewer capacity and thereby facing a moratorium on any and all new development in years just ahead?

The County Commissioners got assurances at Monday's meeting that long-term capital-improvement plans are in place to avoid that scenario. Even so, the pace of growth here has them wondering if those plans are sufficient.

Two specific targets for addressing the issue emerged from Monday's discussion:

The first is how best to provide additional sewage-treatment capabilities within state-imposed limits on effluents discharged into the Neuse River.

Currently under construction is a new treatment plant near the county's landfill off NC 210 west of Smithfield. The plan is for that facility to replace the county's existing plant on the river below Smithfield – a decision resulting from Hurricane Matthew's flood in 2016 that put the 60-year-old plant out of commission for several days.

As a result of Monday's discussion, the county's staff will explore the economics of keeping that old plant in operation for several more years, at least until the new plant – scheduled to go on line in 2024 – can be enlarged under higher discharge limits the county is seeking from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

A more immediate step gaining consensus from commissioners Monday is rewriting county policy on sewer allocations for specific development projects to put a two-year expiration date on those permits if the projects don't move forward.

The issue – brought up by Commissioner Fred Smith earlier this month – is an accumulation of approved yet still unused sewer allocations for residential and commercial developments that could prevent approval of future projects if the county reaches its sewage-treatment limit.

Chandra Farmer, the county's director of utilities, reported to the board Monday that currently on the books are projects "obligated" but "not yet tributary" accounting for 2.21-million gallons of the county's state-permitted discharge of 9.5-million gallons per day. In 2021 the county recorded an average daily flow of 6.7-million gallons, and the state has agreed to increase the allowable limit to 11.5-million gallons once the new treatment plant is in operation.

Even so, commissioners remain concerned that Johnston's accelerating growth will reach that new limit by the time the new plant is done. That's why they're looking at keeping the old plant going a while longer.

Lurking behind all that are revised agreements yet to be finalized with four municipalities that depend on the county for sewage treatment: Smithfield, Selma, Pine Level, and Four Oaks. Those agreements will set the stage for how much of the county's treatment capacity is to be allocated among them.

"I think we're making progress," County Attorney Jennifer Slusser told commissioners on Monday. To make sure of that, Commissioners' Chairman Butch Lawter said notice should be given to the towns that agreements must be reached by mid-September or else the county will impose a moratorium on any further allocations for new developments within their service districts.

Ms. Farmer said 75% of sewage flowing through the county's existing treatment plant comes from "bulk customers," which includes the four towns.

Ernest Allsbrook reappointed to county's Board of Adjustments
The Smithfield resident was reappointed by the County Commissioners Monday to a third three-year term. This quasi-judicial body hears and decides requests for special and conditional-use permits, variances from land-use requirements, and appeals of decisions made by administrative officers in the county's Planning Department.
VIEW the current roster of the Johnston County Board of Adjustments>



SSS opens football season Friday vs. Princeton

Coming off the Spartans' first winning season in more than a decade, the football team at Smithfield-Selma High School will host regional powerhouse Princeton High at 7 p.m. Friday at Charles Tucker Stadium.

The Spartans finished 8-4 last year as they advanced to the second round of the state 3-A playoffs. It was the first full season of competition for SSS Head Coach Deron Donald (right) and the Spartans' first winning season in more than a decade.

Princeton, meanwhile, finished a stellar season a year ago with a record of 13-1, the Bulldog's only loss coming in the state 2-A Eastern Championship game.

Smithfield-Selma lost to Princeton 42-20 in the season opener for both teams last August. Here's the 2022 season's schedule for the Spartans>

Tickets to Friday's game may be purchased in advance online>




River Rat Regatta postponed till Saturday, August 27

High, swift water on the Neuse following heavy rainfall upstream prompted the two-week delay from last Saturday's scheduled event. It's not the first time river conditions have done that. In 2019 the race among homemade cardboard boats was postponed once and then canceled altogether because of high water; and it wasn't held in 2020 because of COVID. That makes this year's event the third in the series launched in 2018 by the Smithfield Parks & Recreation Department.
Here once again is the link to contest rules and an entry form>

This Friday's Third StrEATery features Blazin' Keys

The musical entertainment for this month's Downtown Smithfield event is "Blazin' Keys, Dueling Pianos." There's no admission charge to attend as either spectators or as diners bringing meals from nearby restaurants to eat at tables set up along the 100 block of South Third Street. The event continues from 6 to 9 p.m.

Ava Gardner Museum collecting local memories on videos

An announcement from the Ava Gardner Museum:
December 24, 2022 will mark the 100th birthday of hometown girl and film legend Ava Gardner. In celebration of this milestone, the Ava Gardner Museum has embarked on a new initiative called the "Ava Memories" project. We are asking Ava’s family, friends, and co-stars from around the world to share their memories and impressions of Ava in the form of a short video tribute.

These tributes will be part of the special events planned for the Ava Gardner Festival October 7-9, which will kick off a year of activities and festivities in honor of Ava’s 100th. Selected clips might also be used on the Museum’s social-media channels as part of Ava’s birthday salute.

We know there are people in Johnston County who knew Ava personally, and we would love to hear their stories and memories. If you remember Ava and would like to participate, please visit to upload your video and to review all of the project details and terms and conditions. If you have any questions or would like more information about this project, feel free to contact us directly at or call us at 919-934-5830.



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

LOUISE EDWARDS SUTTON, 86 – died August 14

KENNETH ROBERT FERGUSON JR., 88 – died August 13



FREDA MAE DUBLIN, 69 – died August 12

ANGELA WARWICK NEVILLE, 84 – died August 12

BETTY LOU COATES WILSON, 79 – died August 12


HAZEL SANDERS, 90 – died August 9


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

and you'll find out why.



This ought to be the opening week of school...

But it's not. We're still a week and a half away, the first day of the 2022-23 public-school year not arriving till Monday, August 29.

Johnston Community College began its fall semester this week. So did several athletic teams at Smithfield-Selma High School, including girls' volleyball, tennis, and golf alongside boys' soccer, with football to follow at week's end. That means two full weeks of high-school sports before the first day of classes.

And why is that? you ask. Because coastal tourism interests some years ago secured state legislation that doesn't allow North Carolina's public schools to begin the fall semester before the Monday closest to August 26.

Over the past couple of years Johnston's public schools have shortened the fall semester to finish up with exams before the Christmas holidays. This year, with a later semester start, that couldn't be done without further short-changing the educational rigors for students, so exams won't come till January.

If schools had started this week, a full semester's work could have been accomplished with exams completed before Christmas. Wouldn't that have been better for students and teachers alike?

With the shake-ups in public education brought upon us by COVID, you would think our legislators would have granted local school systems calendar flexibility as part of a drive to make up for "learning loss" resulting from the pandemic. It didn't happen.

Where's the politicians' pledge of "putting our children first" in that?


Q.K. Wall was a local pioneer in racial integration

I first got to know Q.K. back in the 1970s when I served with him on a committee exploring options for building a full-blown recreation center for the community. He was smart. He was sharp. And he was one of the first African-American leaders I had encountered after coming home to join my father at The Smithfield Herald.

Reading his obituary after his passing last weekend, I was reminded of the numerous "firsts" he accomplished as we moved forward into racial integration:

• Among those was his professional service as assistant principal of newly opened Smithfield-Selma High School, Interim Superintendent of Johnston County Schools, and the first African-American member of Johnston's Board of Education after his appointment to fill a newly created seat.
• He was the first African-American elected as president of a Kiwanis Club in the Carolinas region, leading a club based at Selma.
• He was the first African-American honored as "Citizen of the Year" by the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce.

I'm sure there were even more "firsts" for him.

Best of all, he was "home grown," the son of Smithfield shop keepers who returned home after military service in the Korean War and later joined the faculty at Smithfield's Johnston County Training School, his high-school alma mater, in the years just prior to desegregation.

I'm thankful I got to know him during my formative years here.

NOTE: The link to his full obituary appears under "Deaths & Funerals" above.


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