Helena moving ahead with city improvements

The Helena Caboose & Welcome Center, which has rust issues, is scheduled for repainting. Bob Van Loan and Ron Holly show the updated lettering and signage that will be applied afterwards. (contributed)

The Helena Caboose & Welcome Center, which has rust issues, is scheduled for repainting. Bob Van Loan and Ron Holly show the updated lettering and signage that will be applied afterwards. (contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

After receiving the news that Helena is one of six Alabama cities chosen by the Alabama Communities of Excellence program for 2013, Mayor Mark Hall confirmed, “Former council woman Katherine Ennis will be our coordinator for this project. She is familiar with our council and will be able to keep us headed in the right direction.”

ACE “uses a comprehensive, three-phase approach to assist participating communities in planning and preparing for a more vibrant future.” The first phase is a report card of assets and recommended strategy and actions for challenges.

“Those are infrastructure including water, sewer, even Internet services. What the city has available for our citizens—retail services, schools.”

“The initial meeting, as we were told, will invite citizens to tell us what they like about Helena and what needs improvement.”

The entire ACE process could take three years to complete.

Councilman Hal Woodman is the liaison for the newly formed Historical Committee and the Arts Council. “We have a lot of people with artistic talents, but there is no focal point and that is what the council will provide.”

“We are going to provide exposure to different types of art — through both big-name artists and local talent.”

“Expect to see random acts of art around the city. Businesses will be showcasing art, and plans include folk art, music, storytelling and student involvement.”

The Arts Council includes Tim Wolfe, Michael Johnson, Monica Josephson, Mandy Delcambre, Lora Lunsford, Rosalie Oetting, David Schlueter, Katy Wilson, Laura Beth Joseph, Joy Childers and Laura Brookhart.

The Helena Historical Committee includes Ken Penhale, Dan Dearing, Charity Miller, Jason Redd, David Rice, Linda Wurstner, Jay Riley. Alan Farmer, Shannon O’Guin and Kara Barr.

At the July 15 council meeting, Councilman Mike Jones said the current police car fleet is quite outdated and the ball needs to get rolling on purchasing a new fleet, as that can offset the money now being spent on repairs and maintenance.

The council approved hiring one WFA police officer. Extensive improvements are in bid process for Helena’s parks and bids are also being solicited/assembled for the new football field and soccer field.