Thursday, August 6, 2015

Helen Heneghan Way is "choice" in Rockville street name change

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Helen Heneghan Way
Former Rockville City Clerk Helen Heneghan's big contributions to the city will be memorialized in a big way. In a 4-1 vote by the Planning Commission last night, commissioners chose to rename Renaissance Street to Helen Heneghan Way, barring final objection by Montgomery County officials.

No current street in the county is named Helen or Heneghan, according to city staff who researched the many names submitted. The name change was initiated by Choice Hotels, which is headquartered across E. Middle Lane from Renaissance Street, and who have a new Cambria Suites hotel along it.

Commissioners whittled down the dozens of choices to 5 finalists, through straw votes. The 5 candidates were Randy Caruso Lane, Helen Heneghan Way, variations on Cairo or Cinema, and Crutchfield.

Randy Caruso Lane had a lot of emotional support from many in the community, garnering the most votes from the public. Caruso is fondly remembered by many residents, including two who spoke at last night's meeting. "Randy touched a lot of lives in the city," one said. Caruso "was a special needs person," he continued, "and this was during a time when people were not very kind to special needs persons." Yet he affected a generation of residents with his positive interactions at community and sports events, supporters testified. Caruso was known to many as the "Mayor of Rockcrest."

Commissioner David Hill said he thought the heartfelt support of residents who submitted Caruso's name, and who don't ordinarily engage in government meetings, deserved extra consideration from the commission.

Heneghan had numerous supporters who had worked with her during her time as City Clerk, or were familiar with her many contributions to the community.

Former mayor Steven Van Grack testified in support of Heneghan last night, saying naming the street after her would be "a certain way of letting people know about" her contributions to the city. Heneghan passed away on July 13.

Van Grack recalled a time when he remarked that "Bill Hanna may have been the finest mayor in the history of Rockville." Rockville racked up 2 of its 4 All-American City awards during Hanna's time in office. Van Grack said Hanna responded, "there wasn’t much done during that tenure without Helen Heneghan." Heneghan's contributions to the city weren't merely in the civic and government realm, Van Grack added. "She raised 5 boys in Rockvllle, who have all excelled in many ways," he noted.

Several commissioners also voiced support for Heneghan. "She did yeoman duty for the city of Rockville," Commissioner Anne Goodman said. Commissioner John Tyner credited Heneghan for the flag in Veterans Park, and in particular, raising the funds for it. "She, frankly, kept St. Mary’s [Church] running," Tyner recalled, adding jokingly that she also "kept Steve Van Grack out of trouble." Commissioner Jack Leiderman said his former neighbor was greatly missed since her passing.

"I'm speechless," Chair Don Hadley said. "It's really a very tough decision." In a second set of straw votes, both Heneghan and Caruso received unanimous support from commissioners.

Ultimately, the commission voted 4-1, with Hill dissenting, for Helen Heneghan Way. Commissioners were eager to ensure Caruso would not be forgotten, suggesting the potential for renaming Hillcrest Park after him. There would also be additional street names in Town Center Phase II to be decided, as well.

Heneghan's name surfaced late in the search process. After resident Patricia Woodward asked the Mayor and Council Monday night to consider Heneghan for the street name, she was encouraged to approach the Planning Commission by Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton. Woodward testified at last night's meeting.

Is Choice Hotels satisfied? Choice representatives declared City Center Way and Peerless Way their favorites prior to the commission's deliberations.

The name now will be run by the County to find out if they have any objections to it.

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