Helena year in review: Looking back at top news stories of 2020 – Shelby County Reporter – Shelby County Reporter

Posted in Alabama Tattoo on Jan 03, 2021

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The year 2020 was as historic as it was shockingthe headlines included an attempt to return to a normal economy amid COVID-19, the early closure and staggered return of school, a dreaded second wave of the pandemic, and significant local and national elections. Here we recap the top news stories from a year we will not soon forget:

JANUARY

Jobless rate at record low for 7th straight month

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced that, for the seventh month in a row, Alabama has reached a new record low unemployment rate, with Shelby Countys rate again the lowest in the state.

Alabamas preliminary, seasonally adjusted November unemployment rate is 2.7 percent, down from Octobers previous record rate of 2.8 percent, and well below November 2018s rate of 3.8 percent.

Bywater Oyster Bar & Grill opens in Old Town Helena

Youll certainly feel like youre dining seaside when you sample a seafood dish at Bywater Oyster Bar & Grill. Even though the closest body of water is nearby Buck Creek, the new establishment in Helenas Old Town district seeks to create a coastal state of mind amidst the historic backdrop of the 1890s structure occupied by 4085 Helena Road.

Morgan Road expansion project continues

An expansion project aimed at widening the heavily trafficked Morgan Road (Highway 52) is making progress in its effort to relieve congestion on the route. The road, which links Helena and Bessemer, has been in dire need of expansion since the population in the area increased more than 20 years ago. Currently more than 18,000 drivers take the route each day, which has caused severe congestion on the two-lane highway.

Reporter moves publication days to weekends

The Shelby County Reporter and its affiliate newspapers serving Alabaster, Helena, Pelham and the Highway 280 corridor, are shifting publication days from Wednesdays to Weekends, beginning with newspapers to be published on Saturday, Feb. 1 . Wednesday, Jan. 29 is the final Wednesday edition with the first Weekend days later.

FEBRUARY

Minor storm damage hits Helena following tornado

Parts of Shelby County were awoken during the early morning hours of Thursday, Feb. 6, by a sudden tornado warning, specifically the city of Helena, as well as other areas of North Shelby County along the Alabama 119 and U.S. 280 area. Around 2 a.m. a tornado warning was issued for the county just to the west of Helena, and shortly after that turned into a confirmed tornado according to ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann.

Samaniego appointed to commission position

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego was appointed to serve as a Commissioner on the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town announced Wednesday, Jan. 22.

Flash flooding causes issues for roads in county

As rain moved through Shelby County on Monday, Feb. 10, the area was put under a flash flood warning, and it didnt take long for flooding to take over many roadways.

Several roads became impassable in cities like Alabaster, Calera, Chelsea, Columbiana and Pelham, as well as areas off Cahaba Valley Road in North Shelby. The recorded rainfall from 7 a.m. on Feb. 10 until 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, was more than 3 inches across the entire county, while some spots got close to 4.5 inches of rain in the 24-hour span.

Public meeting to be held about toll bridge

Lay Lake area residents and others will have an opportunity to voice their opinions about a proposed toll bridge over the Coosa River at a public involvement meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

A private developer has proposed the toll bridge project, which would connect Shelby and Talladega counties, at Shelby County 28 at Perkins Landing on the Shelby County side of the river.

Llamagram spreads love across county

Most people expect to receive candy and flowers on Valentines Day, but this year Helena Hollow Farm helped people bring something a little more exciting to loved ones with Llamagrams.

For the fee of $50 the farm brought a live llama as a gift to the front door for several residents unsuspecting Valentines. According to Jamie Griffin, Helena Hollow owner, the Llamagrams were a big success.

MARCH

Community steps up to provide food assistance

The immediate closure of public schools in Shelby County in light of the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has raised questions about children having access to an adequate supply of food during the next several weeks.

Three car thief suspects arrested in Helena

Three car thief suspects have been apprehended by the Helena Police Department after an early morning chase ended with the three suspects fleeing on foot following a car crash. According to the Helena Police Department, the individuals stole a car in Alabaster and around 4 a.m. were spotted by HPD before crashing their vehicle and taking off on foot.

Commission rejects proposed toll bridge

A proposal to build a toll bridge over the Coosa River connecting Shelby and Talladega counties was denied by a unanimous vote of the Shelby County Commission at its meeting on Monday, March 23.

County has 36.67-percent voter turnout

With Super Tuesday came a busy day of voting for many residents across Shelby County, and at the end of the day, several candidates had won primary elections, while other races are headed to run-offs.

Alabama schools closed until April 6

Gov. Kay Ivey addressed the state of Alabama in a press conference on Friday afternoon, March 13, and declared a state of emergency, while also declaring that all public schools in the state will be closed for 2.5 weeks as of Thursday, March 19.

Residents unite for help during viral outbreak

Helena residents are coming together to share information and provide help to fellow residents during the coronavirus epidemic through a Facebook group called Helena Pandemic Help Exchange. According to City Council President Hal Woodman who created the group, the goal is to create a network of neighbors to help each other through this crisis.

Hillsboro to see new retail space

A development project headed by U.S. Steel Real Estate will bring a new retail area to the Hillsboro community in Helena, as well as improvements for the trail system that surrounds the area.

APRIL

Freddys and Dunkin set to open in Helena

A business development that was approved by the Helena Council last year is set to bring several new businesses to the city including Chick-fil-A, Freddys, Dunkin and more.

The retail development is located at the intersection of Alabama 261 and Shelby County 52, the former location of Helena Tire and Wheel. The project was proposed by Retail Specialists, LLC after acquiring the approximately 7 acre site.

Helena FBC finds new way to hold its services

Most local churches have decided to cancel in-person services due to the spread of COVID-19, however the First Baptist Church in Helena found a way to gather without risking anyones health by holding a drive-in service on Sunday, March 29.

City OKs funds for distance learning

The Helena City Council has approved a total of $150,000 for Helena schools, including $25,000 to each of the four schools and an additional $50,000 to assist with unexpected expenses related to distance learning.

The Council met remotely in a special called meeting Friday, March 27 to approve the measurejust a day after Gov. Kay Ivey announced Alabama public schools would close for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Unemployment numbers spike across county

On Saturday, March 14, Shelby Countys unemployment insurance initial claims sat at 38 for the month. Two weeks later, on Saturday, March 28, it had risen to 2,439 claims. Thats the harsh reality of what the first two weeks of COVID- 19 did to the countys workforce. Almost as staggering, the states number of claims rose from 1,819 on March 14 to 80,984 on March 28. The Alabama Department of Labor said 74,844 of those claims are COVID-19 related.

Gov. Ivey issues stay-at-home order

A week shy of a month into Alabamas battle with COVID-19, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order for the state on Friday, April 3, to try and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

HHS seniors congratulated with banners

Since HHS is unable to hold a graduation ceremony for its seniors until this summer at the earliest due to the spread of COVID- 19, the city of Helena has placed banners all over town congratulating them on their special achievement. The signs read City of Helena Congratulates Helena High School Class of 2020.

Crave Candles Co. debuts hand sanitizer line

Lori Newell knows how to pour a luxury soy candle, but lately, she has spent much of her time crafting a different commodity: hand sanitizer.

Newell, who owns Crave Candles Company in Helena, realized the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a shortage of sanitizer at stores and decided she wanted to create a solution.

MAY

Helena businesses reopen under new guidelines

Following the amended guidelines of Gov. Kay Iveys safer-at-home order, many businesses were allowed to reopen their doors to customers on May 11.

This amended version includes allowing restaurants to have limited seating for dine-in service, and allows close-contact services, like hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors, to begin serving their customers with new and strict guidelines.

Pippa Daspit wins Helena Virtual Festival

Over the past two weeks more than 15 residents performed talents and nearly 700 people participated in the voting process for the Helena Virtual Festival and Social Distancing Talent Show. The winning submission featured 5-year old Pippa Daspit singing a parody of the classic Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, receiving more than 500 likes.

Dollar Tree location will open in Helena

Helena residents will soon be able to shop at the discount retailer Dollar Tree following the completion of a major retail development in the city, which also still features a vacant spot for lease next door.

Helena Hollow hosts prom for Helena, Thompson students

Helena Hollow will be hosting a Second Chance Dance for at least two local schools starting on May 29 with Thompson High School, before then hosting another one on June 5 for Helena High School.

The event is designed to give juniors and seniors who missed their prom this year a second chance at the memorable dance after COVID-19 ended the school year more than two months early and kept schools from putting on the event.

Local churches reopen amid eased guidelines

Over the past few months many churches have had to find creative ways to continue having services, due to distancing guidelines not allowing for indoor meetings. Some churches used livestreams, and others had drive-in services in the parking lots of their buildings.

County has one of lower jobless rates despite record highs

As COVID-19 has taken the economy, shaken it up and thrown it to the wolves, the country and state have both seen record highs in unemployment rates. The country hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the lowest mark since the Great Depression era, while the state of Alabama had a 12.9 percent unemployment rate during the month, which marked its lowest since 1982 (15.5 percent).

JUNE

Helena High School celebrates its 2020 seniors

The HHS football stadium filled with friends and family Tuesday, June 2, to celebrate the class of 2020 on their achievement of finishing high school and earning their diplomas.

Helena schools approve new administrators

Two new administrators were approved for schools in the city of Helena during a virtual meeting of the Shelby County Board of Education on Thursday, May 28.

Mary Anderson was approved to become the new principal of Helena Elementary School, replacing previous principal Jeff Norris, while Kara Burleson will be the new system assistant principal and has been assigned to Helena Intermediate School for the coming 2020- 2021 school year.

Helena mayor wont run for another term

After serving two terms as the mayor of Helena, Mark Hall announced on Thursday, June 4, that he wont be seeking a third term as the citys mayor.

Helena students get second chance at prom

While they were unable to experience a sense of normal for a while, Helenas senior class got the opportunity to graduate a week ago and then on Friday, June 5, they got the opportunity to enjoy their senior prom thanks to some help from Helena Hollow, who hosted a second chance dance.

SCS gave away more than 180K meals to students

As news broke that schools would close for the remainder of the year, the Shelby County Child Nutrition Program employees put on their masks and gloves and got to work feeding students who would be impacted by the loss of breakfast and lunch meals normally provided at school.

From the first meals served on March 16 to the final meals served on May 21, CNP staff served a total of 181,152 grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals to students.

Refined to go opens restaurant in Helena

In case youve not heard the news, theres a new to-go spot in Old Town Helena that is the latest buzz. Still in their first few weeks of being open, chef James Washington and his wife Star have officially opened Helenas newest eatery named Refined to go, which is located at 778 2nd St. on the backside of Oh My Sole and Brain Freeze.

Mayors unite for peace, racial equality

Mayors of cities and towns in Shelby County released a collective statement supporting peace and racial equality in the wake of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd.

Helena watermelon festival marks start of summer

Summer was in full swing at Helena Hollow as many guests kicked off the season on Saturday, June 20, for the farms Watermelon Crawl Festival.

JULY

Mackey: Campuses will reopen in the fall

In a press conference on Friday morning, June 26, State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey not only laid out the road map for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year amid the COVID-19 outbreak but said students will return for in-person instruction.

Absolutely, our campuses will reopen for in-person instruction, he said early in the press conference.

Shelby County surpasses 1,000 cases of COVID-19

It was another record-high week in Shelby Countys battle with COVID-19, as 239 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed, causing the county to eclipse the 1,000 confirmed-case mark.

Ivey issues mandatory order requiring masks

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Helena year in review: Looking back at top news stories of 2020 - Shelby County Reporter - Shelby County Reporter

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