With city elections over, both Helper and Wellington have new mayors. The changes in administration have led many to wonder what aspects of city operations will be different. While speculation is difficult, Dean Armstrong, newly- elected Helper mayor, has several changes he would like to see happen for his city.
"Helper's had a sense of isolation, and I would like to see the city be a more active participant in the community; a place where people want to live," said Armstrong, while drinking coffee at Balance Rock.
The city of Helper, like others in the county, faces a variety of problems ranging from infrastructure to sustainable economic growth, which are both issues that the new mayor plans to address early on. A particular priority for Mr. Armstrong is infrastructure, because he intends to develop a comprehensive plan to better manage the city's resources relative to electrical, water, street and road systems. Part of this plan, he hopes, will center on moving away from managing crises as they come, and working toward upgrades and maintenance to avoid them.
"There have been no true upgrades in Helper for years, just repair work; we need to move beyond this.(Also) We've missed out on some stimulus money because we didn't have the capital to leverage plans into place," he said.
Helper's general plan, according to Armstrong, is currently centered on Main Street. While he indicated that this is still an important part of the economic future, he also wants to encourage development around Route 6. The highway, which runs through the center of town, brings in a lot of traffic. While access is available, the new mayor wants to see the area around the road considered for future business expansion.
"We need to make sure that we secure access and frontage (around the highway); that's where the traffic is. We don't have the population base to support ourselves internally; we need to look into light industry and commerce on Route 6. Helper's the first and last thing people see when they go through Price Canyon. It's a very good location," he said.
Another pressing issue within Helper is a surplus of abandoned and derelict homes that dot its neighborhoods. Although no single solution exists, Armstrong implied that, while many such homes might be in bad shape as they've been empty for 10 years, many are at least livable. For the most part, these homes hurt the town because they provide no revenues to the city, and decrease surrounding property values.
In terms of city revenues, the new Mayor also wants to evaluate city revenues and possibly make some changes. "Budgets are always a big challenge," he said. He indicated that, as far as revenues, he would like to see the city rely more on sales tax rather than utilities.
"We've got some real challenges; one is the age of our buildings. There needs to be some structural upgrades and there needs to be some residential development on the perimeter of town. We could expand, there are some fantastic vistas around Helper, but it will take negotiations with the state, the county and the federal government," said Armstrong. He added that while Helper might lack a solid economic base, the town does offer great schools. He is currently working with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to help improve access from Route 6 into Helper.