PUBLISHED ONLINE JULY 4, 2019   •   VOL. 1, NO. 27

Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted

Feature: Smithfield's Fourth of July celebrations
Sports & Recreation: River Rat Regatta a week away
 Observations: A re-making of the "editorial page"

A NOTE TO OUR REGULAR READERS: Starting with this week's edition, the Sun will be posted online at 3 p.m. each Thursday rather than 11 a.m. This will give the editor a little more time to "wrap up" the doings of the week as it draws to a close.


Youngsters on bikes and scooters led the 26th annual Fourth of July parade hosted by Emery and Kim Ashley and Evans and Patricia Horne around their neighborhood in South Smithfield this morning. Norman Rockwell would have loved this iconic portrait of Americana!

VIEW MORE parade (and fireworks) pictures on the FEATURE PAGE>

Smithfield's residential electric rates are

below those of Duke Energy, nearby towns

That's a statement that couldn't be written since municipal electric rates spiked in the 1980s --- till now. The Town of Smithfield's prices for residential service are today less than what's charged for comparable service provided by Duke Energy in West Smithfield and rural Johnston County as well as municipal systems in Clayton, Selma, and Benson.

What happened? Smithfield and the other three towns in Johnston County that operate electric utilities have been part of the Eastern North Carolina Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) that purchased shares of four Carolina Power & Light (CP&L) generating plants in the 1970s, including two nuclear-powered plants under construction. Following the infamous Three Mile Island accident in 1979, the cost of nuclear plants rose dramatically, raising the NCEMPA's indebtedness to the point that retail electric rates charged by the municipalities spiked.

More than 30 years later, in 2015, Duke Energy agreed to absorb 70 percent of NCEMPA's remaining debit as a condition of its acquisition of Progress Energy (CP&L's successor). That immediately reduced the municipalities' monthly operating costs. As a result, Smithfield has been able to cut its retail residential rates since then by 12%, according to Town Manager Mike Scott. And, despite a wholesale-rate increase of 1.2% in April, Smithfield's rates remain unchanged in the fiscal year that began July 1 (Mr. Scott notes that a wholesale-rate hike of 3% is anticipated in April 2020.)

Here's how Smithfield's current rates stack up against the competition:
Price per kilowatt hour --- Smithfield, 9.316 cents; Duke Energy, 10.868 cents; Benson, 10.97 cents; Selma, 11.15 cents; Clayton, 11.967 cents. Monthly bills also include varying base charges and 7% N.C. sales tax.

Figuring up the monthly bill for residential consumption of 1,000 kilowatt hours (including base fees and sales tax), in most of the Town of Smithfield the total is $111.45; in West Smithfield and most of the rest of Johnston County served by Duke Energy, it's $131.27 (July-October); in Selma it's $130.21; in Clayton it's $143.83;
and in Benson it's $144.13. (EDITOR'S NOTE: These numbers are based on rate information currently posted online by the providers.)

Commercial and industrial rates, meanwhile, are another matter as each provider has numerous pricing categories depending on the volume of power consumed. Town Manager Scott admits Smithfield's commercial rates remain higher than Duke Energy's as things now stand. "They set the goal for where we want to be," he said. "We all want to be the cheapest with the best service record."

7th Street Marketplace & The Chicken Barn

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

All but one incumbent Town Council

member say they'll file for re-election

Emery Ashley says he will not seek re-election to a third four-year term, but first-term Councilmen John Dunn and Steve Rabil say they will run again. Meanwhile, Mayor Andy Moore says he'll seek re-election to a third two-year term.

The filing period for municipal candidates up for election in 2019 opens at noon this Friday (July 5) and continues just two weeks --- till noon Friday, July 19.

Councilmen Ashley, Dunn, and Rabil presently hold seats that are elected every four years "at large," meaning all of Smithfield's voters get to choose. Seats held by Councilmen David Barbour, Marlon Lee, Travis Scott, and David Stevens are filled every four years by voters in separate districts. Those seats aren't up for grabs again till 2021. The mayor is elected every two years.

"I most definitely will be filing for re-election this cycle," Councilman Rabil told the Sun. "I am very passionate about Smithfield and would be humbled to serve another four-year term."

Councilman Dunn stated: "It has been a great honor to serve on this council and I hope I am allowed to serve the citizens of Smithfield for another four years. I have been fortunate to work with a dedicated and diligent council. While we may not always agree on everything, I feel that we all have the best interest of our town and citizens in mind. The town staff and employees of Smithfield are exceptional and make our town a great place to live, work, and play. I hope the future of Smithfield continues to improve as it has over the last 6-8 years and I hope that I can continue to be a part of this."

Councilman Ashley said he had intended for some time to step down after serving two four-year terms. "I have enjoyed my almost eight years on the council and hope that I have made a positive contribution," he stated. "A special thanks to my wife, Kim, who has always supported me greatly in walking the neighborhoods during the campaigns, standing at the polls on Election Day, and giving me encouragement throughout. I look forward to supporting our Town Council and town staff in a grateful-citizen capacity. Together we can do great things. Smithfield has a great future if we all work together."

Mayor Moore is seeking a third two-year term. He previously served on the Town Council for 16 years. "
I'm honored to serve the citizens of Smithfield as their mayor," he said in a statement to the Sun. "Smithfield is where I was born, where I grew up, where my children attend public schools, where my family attends church, and where Lydia and I love calling home! Mayor is a position that I don't take lightly, and I enjoy seeing our community prosper. I know what is in store for Smithfield and the many possibilities that are on the horizon. I'm excited about where we are and what our future holds, and I want to continue to be part of a great Town Council that has a vision, (is) team oriented, and (has) the leadership abilities to keep us moving in the right direction."

  Johnston Health photo


Johnston Health Volunteers recently awarded scholarships of $1,000 apiece to 12 students headed into health-care careers: (left to right) kneeling --- Kaelin Sanderford of Clayton and Isabelle Eileen Van Camp of Smithfield; standing --- Morgan Thigpen of Wilson, Kamryn Leigh Foy of Smithfield, Evelyn Alonzo of Clinton, Titus Anderson of Clayton, Kymberlee Ray of Four Oaks, Lillian Anderson of Garner, Alicia Lee of Benson, Jonathan Blake Holloman of Selma, and Logan Emily Sutton of Kenly. Absent from the photo was Joshua Williford of Clayton. (Johnston Health operates acute-care hospitals at Smithfield and Clayton. Since 2014 it has been affiliated with UNC Health Care.)

 141 E. Market St. • 919-934-0553 •



Ahira Sancez, a nutrition educator with Johnston's Cooperative Extension Service, holds the blender while Robert Owens provides the power to make a food-healthy "smoothie" from fruit slices, chopped carrots, honey, ice cream, and other ingredients.

The demonstration was part of a "Stomp Out Food Insecurities" food drive and fun day hosted by First Missionary Baptist Church last Saturday.

This is the 50th anniversary of Extension's "Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program," also known as EFNEP. The smoothie-making stationary bike is often borrowed from N.C. A&T State University by Johnston's 4-H Extension folks as they campaign for healthier lifestyles by young and old alike.

The "Creature" is showing up elsewhere

--- and some folks call it a "whistle pig"

The mammal we've labeled "The Creature of Spring Branch" is apparently part of a colony, and now they've been spotted near a second stream: Meadowbrook Branch in South Smithfield.

Initially identified as a "groundhog," some observers are calling it something else.

David Stevens sent me the accompanying picture of a "nutria" (also called a "nutria rat" or "swamp beaver"). He has seen them in the past on his family's land off Brogden Road and recently at Meadowbrook Branch below his residence. His neighbors, Mary Reece and Anthony and Amanda Hopkins, also report sightings near the creek and in their yards.

Rosa Andrews said her daughter and husband have spotted the creature recently at Fifth Street Community Park, where I also saw one.

Tom Stevens of North Third Street suggests another name for these animals. Growing up in central Virginia he knew them as "whistle pigs" because "the call of the groundhog is very much like a whistle."

--- Wingate Lassiter