Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted

SPORTS & RECREATION: SSS player in All-Star game
FEATURE PAGE: A renewed Community Garden
OPINIONS: Property-tax increase is overdue

Smithfield budget adopted with tax rate unchanged, meaning higher bills for most

The Smithfield Town Council adopted its 2019-20 budget Tuesday night without changing anything previously agreed upon. That includes retention of the town's property-tax rate of 57 cents per $100 valuation --- a rate that hasn't been changed since 2003.

What that means this year is an increase in property-tax bills for most Smithfield residents and businesses because of countywide real-estate revaluation. That has raised overall property values in Smithfield about 10 percent --- more than that for many folks, less for others.

The Town Council's vote to approve the budget was unanimous. The new fiscal year begins July 1. Tax bills will go out later this summer, due to be paid without penalty early next January.

READ MORE about the budget and other decisions at Tuesday's session>


"Ava: My Real Story" is the title of a new exhibit unveiled last Friday evening at a reception opening the weekend's Ava Gardner Festival. Museum Director Lynell Seabold (left) stands with Johnston County Visitors Bureau Director Donna Bailey-Taylor beside an electronic "interactive kiosk" that enables visitors to scroll through a gallery of photographs and information about the late movie star who grew up the rural Brogden community east of  Smithfield. Lynell gave Donna credit for coming up with the new exhibits' concept. For more information, visit the museum's website>

US 301 South, Smithfield  •  919-934-8913  •

County Commissioners hear from citizens hoping to avoid higher property-tax bills

During a public hearing on the proposed 2019-20 county budget Monday morning, Johnston's County Commissioners heard from three citizens questioning the need for higher property taxes recommended by County Manager Rick Hester.

Bart Bloom of Parkridge Drive, Clayton complained about a story that appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer which, he said, misled readers into believing that the county's property taxes would not be raised this year. The story said the property-tax rate would not be raised with Mr. Hester's proposed budget, remaining at 78 cents per $100 valuation. What the story failed to point out, Mr. Boom noted, is that this year's revaluation of real estate for tax purposes would result in higher bills for most residents and businesses in Johnston.

That will affect Clayton-area residents more than most Johnstonians because real-estate market values in northwestern Johnston have risen considerably more than values elsewhere in the county.

Kenneth Taylor of Gordon Road near Clayton was more direct: "Are you looking at a decrease in the tax rate?" That's "possible," replied Commissioners' Chairman Ted Godwin. However, he added, "when you have an 8-year revaluation gap, you tend to fall behind in meeting the needs." Mr. Godwin was referring to the fact that the county hasn't increased property taxes since real-estate revaluation was last conducted in 2011.

Brett McWhorter of Clayton Pointe Drive (off Little Creek Road not far from the Johnston County Airport) urged commissioners during Monday's hearing to study "all possible efficiencies" and "all possible revenue streams" before making a decision to raise property taxes.

Commissioners will continue their budget deliberations next Monday (June 10) and the following Monday (June 17). Both of those meetings will begin at 6 p.m. in the Courthouse.

READ MORE about the budget hearing and other items of business addressed by the County Commissioners at Monday's morning and evening sessions>


Smithfield Middle, 7 other schools

assigned new principals for 2019-20

The Johnston County Board of Education, following a closed session on personnel matters last Thursday, approved new contracts that moved current staff members into principals' positions at eight schools.

LaShunda Faison will be the new principal at Smithfield Middle July 1, succeeding Heather Anders, who is moving to North Johnston Middle as its principal. Ms. Faison is currently an assistant principal at Smithfield Middle.

READ MORE about that and other items from the board's May 30 session>

County sells school bonds: $20 million

The County of Johnston on Tuesday sold $20 million of general-obligation bonds authorized by voters last November for the county's public schools. Bank of America Merrill Lynch was lowest of 11 bidders offering a 20-year interest rate of 2.46%.

"The county's strong credit ratings and several other factors played into this successful sale," said County Manager Rick Hester. "Those factors include, but are not limited to, financial policies the Board of Commissioners put in place, the impressive job the county's finance team does, and a vibrant local economy. Plus, it didn't hurt that interest rates have recently dropped some."

The $20 million is needed now to pay for construction of additional classrooms at Corinth-Holders High School, security vestibules at a number of schools, and purchase of a new elementary-school site east of Flowers Crossroads. It's the first installment of $76 million in bond issues approved by Johnston's voters last fall for public schools and Johnston Community College.

Free summer meals at some schools

Johnston County Public Schools will offer free meals during the summer month to children teens 18 and younger through USDA Food and Nutrition Services. West Smithfield Elementary is one of four schools where breakfast and lunch will be served Monday-Thursday starting next week (June 10) and continuing through August 8. Serving times are 8-8:30 and 11:30-12:30. The other schools participating are Selma Elementary, Micro Elementary, and Cooper Academy.

7th Street Marketplace & The Chicken Barn

  Market Street (US 70 Business) at 7th Street, Downtown Smithfield

Smithfield's population is 12,669

in latest U.S. Census estimate

Smithfield's population continues to show modest gains from year to year. The latest U.S. Census estimate just released --- for July 1, 2018 --- is 12,669. That's a gain of 1,703 since the 2010 Census.

That pales in comparison to what's going on in Clayton, where the 2018 estimate is 22,850 residents --- a gain of almost 42% above its 2010 Census count of 16,116.

Johnston County's population, according to the latest estimate, is 202,675 --- a gain of 20% above 168,878 registered in 2010.

Smithfield-based KS Bank ranks 31st

Business North Carolina Magazine's annual ranking of banks and credit unions based in North Carolina ranks KS Bank of Smithfield as the 31st largest. That's based on 2018 revenue of $16.4 million. The bank's net income was $4.1 million, total assets amounted to $400.1 million, and deposits totaled $330.8 million.

The largest N.C.-based bank is Bank of America, headquartered in Charlotte. Second is BB&T of Winston-Salem. First Citizens Bank, founded in Smithfield and now headquartered in Raleigh, ranked third. The State Employees Credit Union ranked fourth.

 141 E. Market St. • 919-934-0553 •

Community Garden open for business

The revived Smithfield Community Garden was officially opened to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Saturday morning.

Folks are now welcome to come by and pick ripe vegetables to take home. Payments will be collected with an "honor system."

The Community Garden is located on South Fifth Street beside Spring Branch between Church and Woodall streets.

SEE MORE about it on today's FEATURE PAGE>

A rundown of upcoming civic and cultural opportunities in our community
that we've been told about or seen publicized in other media:

COMMUNITY BLOOD DRIVE June 18 from 10:30 a.m. till 3 p.m. at the Johnston County Health Department at 517 N. Bright Leaf Blvd. Appointments may be made at by entering sponsor code "Smithfield" at the upper right-hand corner of the opening page.

JUNIOR LEAGUE GALA June 22 to benefit the Smithfield Rescue Mission's "Blessing Baskets" program for needy families. The event begins at 7 p.m. at The Farm at 95. Tickets are $65 each and include an open beer and wine bar. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

MY KID'S CLUB SUMMER CAMP July 8-19 at South Smithfield Elementary School. It's open to the first 50 kids ages 6-12 who submit an application from a child's teacher, the office at South Smithfield School, or by contacting Mamie Moore, director of operations for My Kid's Club: e-mail or telephone 919-351-1559.

"Trusted by families since 1977"


Each week we'll post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We'll monitor the websites of local funeral homes to compile our list, and we welcome links provided by readers to obituaries of persons with Smithfield connections who have died outside our immediate area.

PHILLIP JAMES THOMAS SR., 72 - died June 1

WILLENA M. CAMPBELL, 92 - died May 31



Here's how Smithfield's train station appeared around 1970, not long before its demolition. Built in the late 19th Century after the railroad arrived here, its purple signage and trim was standard for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which operated passenger trains on a double-track main line through Johnston County during the first half of the 20th Century. Until the late 1960s, two of those trains, numbers 80 northbound and 89 southbound, made stops at Smithfield while all the others running between Richmond and Florida whizzed on by, some of them stopping at nearby Selma, where the passenger depot was saved for Amtrak trains that serve it today as the stop for "Selma-Smithfield." (Photo from the editor's collection)

212 E. Church Street  •  919-934-1121 

SPORTS & RECREATION: SSS player in All-Star game
FEATURE PAGE: A renewed Community Garden
OPINIONS: Property-tax increase is overdue

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