As a school board member, Kay Carroll, the Smithfield pharmacist, was a supporter of higher spending on school operations and the borrowing of tens of millions of dollars to build new schools in Johnston County. But he often complained, sometimes loudly, that the schools were not setting aside money to maintain all of those new schools.
We have been reminded of Mr. Carroll’s words these past few weeks as David Johnson, president of Johnston Community College, has campaigned for dollars for much-needed building repairs on his campus.
JCC’s needs are not in dispute. We have seen the photos of crumbling parking lots, cracked sidewalks and damage to the Wilson Building foundation; to his credit, Dr. Johnson is at least asking for maintenance dollars.
But over the past two decades, the community college has been much like the public schools – more concerned about building new buildings than maintaining them. This is not an exact inventory, but in our years here JCC has built (at least) an auditorium, two libraries and a health-sciences building. It has also expanded the Wilson Building and is seeking land to continue its aggressive building campaign. However, what JCC hasn’t done – apparently – is fund a maintenance budget that makes repairs before students, faculty and staff start complaining en masse.
We’re not picking on the college and public schools here. Across Johnston, government has been on a building spree. Clayton, most noticeably, has a new law-enforcement center. Smithfield has a new town hall and aquatics center. Four Oaks, too, has a new town hall.
All of these buildings require ongoing maintenance and will one day need costly repairs like new roofs. The time to begin setting aside money for those needs is now. The alternative is to wait until the needs are critical and the costs are perhaps too much for taxpayers to bear.
That was Mr. Carroll’s message all those years ago. They were wise words then, and they are even more so now.