Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get.
This week the Luzerne County Commissioners took a bold and an historic step toward the preservation of the Huber Breaker.It happened quietly in a dignified, thoughtful and responsible way on a cold January morning.
It was not standing room only in the commissioners meeting room. On the contrary, there were several empty seats. The atmosphere in the room was pleasant, but subdued.
No one in attendance signed up to speak at the meeting. There were no moans of protest from the gallery as the commissioners moved rapidly and without incident through the 24 page agenda.
More than once, he chairman of the board of commissioners expressed his surprise that the meting was moving along so smoothly.
My wife who covered hundreds of meetings in this room during the 70’s and 80’s remarked that this was a much more pleasant experience than the ones she knew as a reporter for WARM radio during the Wideman-Crossin era
County Manager and Chief Clert, Samuel T. Guesto, Jr. read these words:
Next is a request for a motion to adopt a resolution authorizing the exercise of authority under the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Act as amended to commence condemnation proceedings against real estate situated 49 South Main Street, Ashley Borough, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
The vote was unanimous in favor of resolution.
Commissioner Todd Vonderheid made it clear that this resolution was, in fact, about the Huber Breaker property. He then shared these words:
I believe from my standpoint that the Board’s taking this action to do several things. The first which is to assure that this property remains intact at least in its current state or until such time as this community is able to find the means and the partners necessary to make it the true asset I think we all believe it can be.
Commissioner Steve Urban, an early proponent of preservation offered his reason for voting affirmatively:
I think my comments in the past on the breaker says this is a very important part of our heritage of our area. Many of our families including, my grandfathers who were coal miners, and it would be a shame to see this structure destroyed…. I think this structure does have valid public interest and that’s why I’m supporting this resolution to save this property.
Commissioner Greg Skrepenak summarized the years of work that preceded the resolution:
We’ve been talking about this for a very long time…trying to get this property and trying to preserve this breaker, not only to pay homage to the miners who made this county what it is but also for future generations to enjoy, and to see exactly what made our county what it is. And it’s important, I think, not only to remember those people that… paved the way for our county and the state and in many ways the country, but also for our children to understand … the trials and tribulations and the struggles that their ancestors went through.
The exciting thing to me about this is that my children… and future generations will know not only what my grandfather sacrificed, but what all the men sacrificed and families sacrificed to make this county what it is today and make this country what it is.
Commissioner Vonderheid described the eminent domain resolution with these words:
The phase today was simply preserving the asset and insuring that it doesn’t fall into any other state of disrepair or in fact, worse than that, be demolished.
Thinking about the years it will take to fulfill the dream of preserving the Huber, Vonderheid offered these comments:
The Huber Breaker will be a project that was conceptualized really by a group of volunteers that are just really well intended a people who believe in the spirit of our history and now it’s incumbent upon those of us as Governor Casey always said:
“What did you do with the power when you had it?” And so today Greg and Steve and I have the power to at least insure that this community has a chance to save this structure. So, that’s what we did.
Kitch and I left the Luzerne County Courthouse with a sense of pride in the system…a sense of awe at scope of the power county commissioners have… a feeling of admiration for the way the commissioners conducted themselves on this special day and a feeling of hope that the Huber Breaker may very well survive and thrive in its new life as a place where people come to get in touch with their past so that their future can be bright.
Democracy is a beautiful process to watch. When it works, it guarantees equality and justice for everyone.
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