Smithfield Herald

New money opens for recreation

Johnston leaders are encouraging county groups to apply for recreation dollars.

Last week, County Commissioners agreed to create an application process for seeking money from Johnston’s open-space fund. Commissioners will award most of the money to recreation projects in western Johnston County, including the Cleveland community.

That’s because most of the available money came from western Johnston developers who chose to pay a fee instead of setting aside open space in their subdivisions.

Developers have been paying into the fund for 12 years. County Commissioners are opening the spigot now because a change in state laws gives them more flexibilty in spending the money. Before the change, the county could use the money only to buy land.

Earlier this year, commissioners gave the Miracle League $100,000 to build a special-needs playground and ball field in Smithfield.

Now schools, Johnston towns, community groups and others may seek dollars. This year’s application period will run July 1 to Aug. 15. Recipients will have to put up a 5-percent match.

The fund has about $1 million, and commissioners will hold onto about a third of that – $343,000 – for countywide projects. Here are the dollars available by community: Cleveland, $241,000; the rest of western Johnston, $209,000; Corinth Holders, $94,000; South Johnston, $65,000; and Clayton, North Johnston, Princeton and Smithfield-Selma, $20,000 each.

Commissioners decided on the application process after hearing from Jonathan Breeden of the Greater Cleveland Athletic Association. He said his group is running out of recreation space.

Pine Level ambulance

Pine Level will soon have an ambulance stationed in town.

Last week, County Commissioners approved the change. Before, Selma had two ambulances at its station, one available 24 hours a day and one available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The county will move that second ambulance to the fire station Pine Level.

The county’s Emergency Services Department recommended the change after talking with its Selma’s counterpart. Selma is one of the three independent EMS departments in Johnston; the county took over the other EMS squads in 2011.

The change won’t decrease Selma’s service, Josh Holloman, the county’s EMS chief, said, noting that the ambulance was already serving Pine Level. Holloman said he and his staff looked at call data before making the change and picked the location and times that made the most sense.

“So in reality, the same truck has been running those calls anyway,” he said. “They’ve been leaving Selma and going to Pine Level.”

Other Business

Two more towns have asked the county to take over erosion and sediment control. The county adopted its ordinance last December, giving it the power to check on construction projects instead of state staff. On Monday, commissioners agreed to take over enforcement in Benson and Wilson’s Mills.

“Our cup’s getting full,” said Jamie Guerrero, the county’s storm-water administrator.

The department has a vacant position that Guerrero hopes to fill soon. “We are looking at filling that position with the revenue that we are receiving from ... fees,” he said. That idea is to make enforcement pay its own way.

Commissioners approved the school board’s request to buy land for a new middle school in Micro. The roughly 32 acres will cost about $377,000.

Commissioners amended their cell-tower ordinance to allow taller towers. The new height limits are 300 feet in rural areaa, 250 feet in a modest-growth area and 199 feet in high-growth areas.