Volunteers lauded by city council
Helper's leaders say town wouldn't thrive without active citizen participation
Recognition of the importance of volunteers to the life of the City of Helper dominated last Thursday's city council meeting.
Council members were presented with two very different items concerning the active participation of residents in the overall vibrancy of downtown. Neida Garcia presented a proposal for the formation of a beautification committee and Melanie Steele told the council that she needed to move away from her role as the primary organizer of the Helper Arts Festival.
"I need to step back a bit," she said. "There really needs to be strong support for the director of the arts festival."
Helper Mayor Mike Dalpiaz assured Steele that the festival would be a priority for the city council and that there would be someone assigned to the event.
"One of the two rookies will be sitting down with you all," he said, referring to P.J. Jensen and Larry Ganser who were in the audience at the meeting.
Steele stressed the importance of immediate action saying that planning the festival is actually a year-long effort.
The Helper Arts & Music Festival is going into its 14th year and is reportedly a major draw for the historic downtown area. The 2007 festival was held from Aug. 17 to 19 and featured everything from more than 50 arts and crafts booths to food to a car and cycle show.
While she said she needed to take a breather from the main organizing, Steele told the council she is still concerned about the event.
"I am just not looking to cut and run," she said. "I want to make sure it (festival) will survive."
Dalpiaz acknowledged her concerns.
"Come Jan. 1, I will stress how important this is," he said.
Garcia proposed an opposite challenge to the council. She came with a detailed concept for sprucing up the streets and store fronts in Helper.
"We have a problem downtown," she said. "It's very disappointing to see window fronts that need washing and weeds everywhere. A lot of people complain but don't do anything about it."
Garcia said the plan devised by her and her friends includes eliminating weeds in various areas including the utility building in the cemetery and near the entrance to the city. She emphasized that they weren't looking to jeopardize anyone's jobs, just to lend a hand.
"If we pull the weeds can we have the city pick them up?" Garcia asked.
While Dalpiaz and his colleagues presented several possible logistical roadblocks to the overall plan, the mayor did say that picking up the weeds wouldn't be a problem.
Garcia learned a bit earlier in the discussion that liability issues would impede the ability of the city to allow volunteers to actually use city equipment. Despite being faced with some limitations by municipal regulations, Garcia went on with the ambitious blueprint for giving Helper a bit of a face lift.
"We would like to put wooden pots with flowers in several locations," she said.
She said that a way to get more support might be to have a monthly award for best yard and that if the program were to really take off that volunteers could help the elderly and disabled by cleaning up their yards.
The council expressed support for Garcia's plan and said that information about the program could be printed on back of utility bills, a suggestion that lit up Garcia's eyes.
"Anything we can do to help you we will," said Dalpiaz.
Councilman Dean Armstrong seconded the mayor."You have the city council's appreciation and support," he said.
However, despite the backing for Garcia's effort, council members did share some caveats.
"It's great that you are heading up this thing, we have been running so short on resources," said Councilman Robert Farrell. "Often in volunteer groups the person that heads them is lonesome."
Undeterred by the warning, Garcia had her own opinion on recruiting able bodies. "I'm actually asking for volunteers from the council," she said smiling.