Helena residents ponder city’s future

Published 11:19 am Monday, September 24, 2012

The progress on the future Helena High School proceeds. Residents are, across the board, enthusiastic and see it as Helena’s newest and best asset. (Contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

In larger towns businesses come and go, but there is something about our coffee café, La Reunion, closing that brings a certain pall over Old Town Helena.

Early morning regulars found out via a telephone call on Sept. 4 that the shop had closed. Even those aware of circulating rumors had dared to hope it was not so.

Not long before, I had spoken with owner Del Howell, who said business was down this year and only the Helena Idol and Jr. Idol events had kept their hopes afloat.

Del and Robin Howell — you will be missed.

So my thoughts turn to other changes that might be in the wind after our mayoral runoff produces an official winner on Oct. 9. What do residents think?

During the Aug. 28 election, I asked random voters what should be the top priority for our Helena governing officials.

“We need to ensure that Helena High School gets the support it needs and the right teachers to become the best high school in the county,” Patrick McGill told me. “It should also be a priority to take care of the city employees in terms of morale. That starts at the top with the mayor. He sets the tone for making them want to do their job better thus serving the better good.”

“I’d like to see an influx of small businesses and still keep the small-town feel. I think the number one agenda is widening the roads and evolving the infrastructure,” Tony Halsey, an engineer who lives in Riverwoods, said. “More independent restaurants would be a plus.”

Bob Hopton-Jones, a CPA who has lived in Helena 17 years, said, “I don’t know much I would change about Helena. Of course, the successful start of the new high school is important and the bypass project is huge.

“I would like to see the condition and growth of our parks addressed. We need a parent volunteer to be involved with the ballparks again.”

“I am beyond excited about the high school,” Sherrill Vansant said. “I am ready to help them hammer and nail! Parent participation here makes a huge difference.

“Helena is a bedroom community and it’s ok to accept that. I wish more people would support our local restaurants—we eat out every Friday night. And I would like to see some smart businesses, not specialty shops, come in.”


Laura Brookhart can be reached by email at labro16@yahoo.com.