Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
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Youngsters paddle "Knot-A-Yacht" to River Rat Regatta win

Carter Dale and Gavin Holland dig in with paddles to nudge their homemade cardboard craft to a first-place finish in the Youth Division of last Saturday's River Rat Regatta. Winning the Adult Division was a cardboard vessel named "Sink Outside the Box," propelled by Chris Cotrupi and Kaden Wilson who completed the run from the Neuse River boat ramp to the Market Street bridge in one minute, 34.3 seconds. The Youth Division drew half a dozen entries, of which four finished without capsizing or sinking, while eight of 13 Adult entries made it to the finish line. It was the third time the annual event has been staged by the Town of Smithfield's Parks and Recreation Department.

Schools enroll 36,301 students; more expected

Johnston County Public Schools continue to enroll more students as the first week of classes progresses. Schools opened Monday with an enrollment of 34,583. By Wednesday the total was 36,301, up 549 from last year's Day 3 figure.

The Day 10 total is what's used by the state for measuring annual enrollment. For the 2021-2022 school year that number was 37,592. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction is projecting Johnston's enrollment to top 38,000 this year.

Johnston's school administrators are worried that enrollment may not reach the state's projection. That would result in a reduction of the state's funding allotment to Johnston's public schools.

Of the 36,301 enrolled as of Wednesday, the school system's online Virtual Academy accounted for 685 students, reports Caitlin Furr, the system's director of communication. The Virtual Academy, based at Smithfield Middle School, includes all grades and has its own mascot – the lynx – and a logo (shown here).

Johnston County currently operates 46 public-school campuses plus affiliated programs housed at Johnston Community College and in administrative facilities on the former Smithfield High School grounds now identified as the county system's "West Campus."

What about COVID? While masks are no longer required in classrooms and buses, the school system continues to monitor outbreaks. Its COVID-19 dashboard is updated continuously, this morning (Thursday) reporting 45 active cases among students and nine among staff throughout the county. That includes one case at Smithfield-Selma High and one at West Smithfield Elementary but none at Smithfield Middle, South Smithfield Elementary, and Wilson's Mills Elementary schools.

Principal Crystal Gregory (right) welcomes students to Monday's opening day of classes at the Innovation Academy at South Campus – originally opened in the 1950s as an extension of Smithfield's African-American high school in the days before racial desegregation and consolidation, today operated as a middle-grades "laboratory school" that accepts qualifying "pioneering" students from throughout the county. (Johnston County Public Schools photo)

School board asks DA to examine Johnson evidence

The Weekly Sun this week received a copy of the letter along with attachments sent by Board of Education Chairman Todd Sutton last Friday requesting District Attorney Susan Doyle to determine whether violations of board policies by Ronald Johnson constitute criminal grounds for his removal from office.

The school board last week voted 6-1 (with Mr. Johnson dissenting) to censure him for violating a policy barring secret recordings of board proceedings and another prohibiting board members from intervening in student assignment matters. The board does not have statutory authorize to remove one of its own members.

Here's a PDF containing Chairman Sutton's letter to the DA along with evidence gathered by the board's attorneys that led to Mr. Johnson's censure>


Johnston's jobless rate dropped to 3.3% in July

The number of Johnstonians employed rose from 102,838 in June to 104,433 in July while the number filing for unemployment benefits fell from 3,928 to 3,546, according to the latest report from the N.C. Department of Commerce. That reduced the county's jobless rate from 3.7% in June to 3.3% in July (the statewide rate was 3.7%). Johnston's unemployment rate in July 2021 was 4.5%.

VIEW the state's July report covering all of North Carolina's counties>

Amazon delays West Smithfield start-up till next spring

That announcement came this week from Chris Johnson, the county's director of economic development:

"They are fully committed to the building and job creation; however, with equipment supply issues and now the recent slowdown in the economy, they have pushed back their opening and job hiring to sometime Spring of next year" he told the Sun.

When Amazon announced its plans for the West Smithfield distribution center in May 2021, the company pledged to create 500 jobs and pay a minimum starting wage of $15 an hour.
Operations were originally scheduled to begin by the end of this year. Construction of the facility appears to be nearing completion.


Fourth Street beside Town Hall was temporarily under water following a torrential downpour in June 2019. (Photo retrieved from Town of Smithfield Facebook page)

Town eyes funding mechanism to stem stormwater

The Town Council took another step Tuesday evening toward an expanded program to fix Smithfield's drainage and flooding problems.

"We have got to take some action," exclaimed Councilman Travis Scott. "We're one rainstorm away from a potential disaster."

He made the motion to adopt a staff-prepared resolution committing the town to establish a "stormwater utility" with its own "enterprise fund" that would likely draw its revenue from either monthly fees or annual assessments paid by all the town's property owners.

"If we do this, it's got to cover everybody," declared Mayor Andy Moore, who said public as well as privately owned properties should be subject to whatever fees are charged for land occupied by structures and parking lots and other surfaces deemed impervious to rainfall and thereby producers of stormwater runoff.

Councilman David Barbour seconded Mr. Scott's motion, which was adopted without dissent. (Councilmen John Dunn, Marlon Lee, Steve Rabil, and Sloan Stevens were also present Tuesday. Roger Wood was absent.)

The first step is the town's application for a state-administered grant to pay for a study of Smithfield's drainage needs and development of a plan for action along with a mechanism for collecting ongoing revenue from property owners to pay for the infrastructure improvements to be done.

"I think we (will) have a competitive application," Planning Director Stephen Wensman told the council. He estimated the study would cost about $50,000.

This fiscal year the town has budgeted $157,290 in its General Fund for drainage projects – an amount town officials deem insufficient to fix what needs to be fixed.

Other items discussed during Tuesday's special session involved proposed changes to the town's rules regarding dilapidated buildings and unkempt lots and a proposal to raise fees on new residential developers for parks and recreation projects. Staff will come back with specific recommendations on both items for consideration at subsequent council meetings.



Smithfield-Selma runs over Nash Central 49-17

Junior Isaiah Dawson was the star of last Friday's show, scoring four of the Spartans' seven touchdowns: two on kickoff returns of 97 and 90 yards, one on a 48-yard pass play, and another on a 33-yard run from scrimmage.

Senior Gerard Sanders Jr. led the SSS rushing attack with a total of 127 yards on 17 carries including two touchdowns. Altogether, the Spartan rushers accounted for 210 yards. Senior John Renfrow scored the first SSS TD on a quarterback sneak inside the 1-yard line. He also completed five of 13 pass attempts for a total of 83 yards, including the TD toss to Dawson.

SSS broke the game open in the second quarter when the Spartans scored four touchdowns, including the first of Dawson's kickoff returns, and led 35-3 at halftime.

Standouts on defense for SSS were senior Jaylen Stancil with 14 tackles and sophomore Danyaeul McCray with nine.

Next up for the Spartans is a non-conference contest at North Johnston High at 7 p.m. today (Thursday) – ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Last week's football scores for other Johnston County schools:

Clayton                0
Wake Forest      26
Cleveland               43
J.H. Rose               28
Corinth Holders  35
Southern Nash   65
South Johnston 15
Triton                 34
West Johnston       56
Western Harnett      7
Princeton     58
East Duplin  57
North Johnston  6
Rosewood        14

SSS girls volleyball team 3-3; boys soccer team is 0-4-1

Smithfield-Selma's girls volleyball team is 3-3 after Tuesday's loss at South Johnston in the Spartans' Quad County 3-A Conference opener.

The Spartan girls tennis team is without a win after its first six matches.

The SSS boys soccer team is 0-4-1 following Tuesday's 6-0 loss to North Johnston. Two more non-conference matches are scheduled before the Spartans enter conference action against South Johnston September 12.

Neuse Charter's soccer team 4-1; volleyball team 5-2

The boys soccer team is 4-1 following Monday's loss to undefeated East Wake Academy. Previous wins came against Southside Christian School of Clayton, Mintz Christian Academy of Roseboro, Roxboro Community School, and Henderson Collegiate. All were non-conference matches.

The girls volleyball team is 5-2 as a result of Tuesday's loss to Perquimans High School. After a season-opening loss to East Wake Academy, the Cougars had won five straight matches: against C.B. Aycock High (twice), Princeton High, South Johnston High, and Franklin Academy. Four more non-conference matches are scheduled before Neuse Charter's Carolina 1-A Conference opener at North Duplin High September 13.


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

and you'll find out why.


August rainfall measured close to what's normal

Cornell Cox reports 4.90 inches of rainfall measured at his Backyard Weather Station in South Smithfield during August, bringing our year-to-date total to 29.06. Still a ways to go to reach our annual average of just under 48 inches with four months remaining in 2022. Last year's total at this point was 42.79.


Town Council to consider incentives for a "spec" building
The first of three public hearings on the agenda for next Tuesday's 7 p.m. regular monthly meeting at Town Hall is a request for property-tax rebates for a proposed industrial building at the intersection of Brogden and Wal-Pat roads bedside I-95. Al Neyer, a commercial real-estate firm with offices in several states, wants to construct a 264,000-square-foot "spec" (speculative) building "that it will build to suit a future lessor." The firm is asking for a return of half the property taxes to be paid to the town over the first five years – $71,250 annually for a total of $356,250. The firm's investment in the project is estimated at $25 million, producing 25 jobs.
• A second public hearing will be held on a request to close Circle Drive between South Bright Leaf Boulevard and Seventh Street.
• A third hearing will be conducted on a request from Wintergreen Hospitality for a special-use permit to allow construction of a five-story Home2 Suites hotel beside the Hampton Inn off East Market Street near I-95.
VIEW the complete agenda for Tuesday's Town Council meeting>

County Commissioners to meet Tuesday instead of Monday
The Johnston County Board of Commissioners will hold their regular "first Monday" sessions next Tuesday because of Monday's Labor Day holiday. That includes sessions at 10 a.m. and  6 p.m. – both at the Courthouse.
VIEW agendas for the two sessions once they're posted online>

Master Gardeners will host a symposium September 24
The Johnston County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are hosting a symposium – featuring gardening with natives and exotics and container gardening by presenters Bryce Lane and Tony Avent – on Saturday, September 24 (8:30-3:30) at the Johnston County Agricultural Center on NC 210 west of Smithfield. For more details and for registration visit

Jehovah's Witnesses resuming door-to-door ministry

Resumption of the trademark door-to-door ministry comes after a two-and-a-half-year suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic. The resumption of home visits coincides with a global campaign to distribute a new interactive Bible study program available in hundreds of languages at no cost to recipients. In the United States, Jehovah's Witnesses number more than 1.3 million in 13,000 congregations. Shown here with Smithfield congregant Daisy Marshall (center) are Stacy Duffield (left) and Megan Duffield. (Photo provided by Jehovah's Witnesses)



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

ETTA (MARIE) HOOVER SPEARS, 92 – died August 29

DAVID RICHARD NORRIS, 79 – died August 28

BONNIE JEAN ROMANO, 71 – died August 28

LINDA PITTMAN STARLING, 79 – died August 24



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)



What's to be done about Market Street traffic?

Lynn Johnson's experience is a common one for folks who park along Downtown Smithfield's Market Street:

"I came out of the Heritage Center after volunteering for an hour and found my rear-view mirror on the sidewalk," she wrote to the Weekly Sun this past week. "I’d been clipped by a truck who did not stop. I had to pay $500 out of pocket for the replacement since it was considered a ‘hit and run’ and that was the deductible....

"People who know park on the edge of the curb because so many have had a similar experience. We also turn our mirrors toward the car. However, a visitor to Smithfield doesn’t know this and may take away negative memories due to having their car damaged by a flying logging truck!" she noted.

"The issue as I see it is that Market Street is used as a short cut by huge trucks going 50 mph. The lanes are too narrow for them and they clip cars and keep flying.  I’ve never seen one stopped for speeding."

So how do we fix all that?

Fining motorists $25 for pulling vehicles onto the sidewalk might discourage folks from parking on Market in the first place – a sensible step to prevent broken mirrors. A more effective measure would be slowing down the traffic that whizzes through town by strictly enforcing the 25 mph speed limit and changing the timing of traffic signals so motorists can't race down the street with green lights in sight as far as they can see.

The ultimate solution? Remove all on-street parking from Market, coupled with "traffic calming" measures like raised or brick crosswalks at intersections and more frequent red lights for thru traffic. With parking removed, there would be room for turn lanes with protective signals in addition to the four lanes we've got now.

Meanwhile, there's concern that the truck traffic will get even worse once the Amazon distribution center opens in West Smithfield. Market Street is the direct route from there to I-95.

It's too bad Downtown Smithfield's comeback is impeded by the Market Street racetrack, and it's unlikely the road's designation as a major U.S highway is going away any time soon. Still, things have got change to make the environment safer for motorists and pedestrians alike. And the sooner, the better.

Speaking of traffic and pedestrian safety, here's a helpful reminder from Johnston County Emergency Services of what to do when approaching stopped school buses:


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