Despite cutbacks in staffing made last month, Eckley Miners Village will be open this winter with the help of remaining staff and volunteers.

But a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission told the TIMES NEWS on Tuesday that the future of sites such as Eckley and others is still uncertain.

"It appears that Eckley will be able to keep the facility open," said Kirk Wilson, PHMC press secretary. Still, the status of Eckley and other historical sites is unclear and is expected to be announced "in a formal statement at the middle of December," Wilson added.

Wilson said earlier reports about the closing of the facility were the result of misinformation from the budget department and other areas.

In the meantime, Eckley will continue to be open, although visiting hours for the museum and village might need to be adjusted due to a drop in available staffing.

"Yes, we're open," said a museum staff member who answered a phone call to Eckley on Tuesday afternoon. "We're not sure (what's happening)... but we're open now."

Yesterday, the state issued a release to emphasize that Eckley is still open to the public:

"Eckley Miners Village will not close for the winter. Eckley Miners Village will remain open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m."

The museum and village suffered cutbacks in custodial and security staff last month, along with a reassignment of at least one curator who reportedly has accepted a job offer at the PHMC's Harrisburg headquarters.

State budget cutbacks and staffing layoffs at the PHMC are threatening the operation of Eckley and several other historical sites in the commonwealth.

The Rendell administration laid off some 300 state employees, reflecting a 2 percent spending cut in the state budget.

The Anthracite Heritage Museum at Scranton's McDade Park also had been slated for closing this winter but a state news release issued last week reported that the site would be open. Both Eckley at the Scranton site were due to close Dec. 1, according to earlier reports.

If the state should announce in two weeks that Eckley Miners Village will close for good, the loss would be felt locally. For instance, the popular Eckley Players Theatre Troupe would be hard pressed to continue to exist if its base of operations should close. The volunteer-driven organization provides history-oriented entertainment at street fairs in the TIMES NEWS coverage area, including the Tamaqua Heritage Festival, the Lansford Coal Miners Heritage Festival and at many parades and special events.

Eckley Miners Village is located just off Route 940, Luzerne County, 10 miles east of downtown Hazleton. Admission is charged for the museum, which includes an 18-minute video on the life of the miner and his family.

More information is available at (570) 636-2070, or at www.eckleyminers.org.

Eckley Miners Village is administered by the PHMC in cooperation with Eckley Miners Village Associates.

Individuals with disabilities who need special assistance or accommodations to visit the museum should call (570) 636-2070, in advance, to discuss their needs.

Pennsylvania TDD relay service is available at (800) 654-5984.