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Saving the Huber Breaker right move for past, future

WE’RE HEARTSICK AT the thought of the Huber Breaker being sold for scrap.

No, it doesn’t look like much now to passersby. The dingy, old building with its innumerable broken windows screams eyesore.

But for years, the Huber Breaker Preservation Society has seen potential under the rust and has lobbied to preserve it. Three acres of nearby land have been purchased and plans have been in the works to turn the breaker into the centerpiece of a $9 million museum and park complex.

On Thursday, we reported that the breaker’s owner said he’s considering a $285,000 offer from a company that wants the breaker’s 1,150 tons of steel.

U-Haul Corp. wants to buy the property after the steel’s removed for use as a maintenance facility, wrote No. 1 Contracting Corp. President Al Roman in a Nov. 27 letter to the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority.

Roman said in his letter that he’d like the breaker to be saved and would help make that possible even at a loss to his company. But, he gave the redevelopment authority until Thursday to submit a counter-offer and warned that his competing offer is in excess of $650,000.

The county has been trying to cut a deal with Roman. The redevelopment authority has offered him 6 acres near the breaker in return for the aging piece of history. Roman says he wants 21 other authority-owned acres near the breaker and the option to buy 3 more authority acres.

County officials seem understandably miffed with Roman. “The public just can’t be extorted,” said Commissioner Todd Vonderheid.

But thankfully, all three commissioners say they’re committed to acquiring the breaker. We urge them to push aside any animosity and come up with a solution that’s fair to Roman and taxpayers.

Yes, that may be difficult.

But they’ve got to try. We’re confident that the long-term benefits of acquiring the breaker will overshadow embarrassment in being the first to blink in negotiations with Roman.

Lackawanna County has surged ahead of us in capitalizing on and honoring our coal heritage with its McDade Park. The Huber Breaker project could be just as impressive and a partner in tourism, drawing visitors south.

County officials owe it to our coal miner ancestors and future generations to acquire the breaker and make this project a reality.

No, it doesn’t look like much now.

But the Huber Breaker could be transformed from an aging hulk into a historical legacy.

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