Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh consider merger

WILKINSBURG, Pa. — While the majority of Wilkinsburg’s elected officials are against the idea there’s enough support right now to discuss making Wilkinsburg a part of Pittsburgh.

Nearly 1,000 people have signed a petition in favor of exploring the idea. And the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation plans to present the petition to an Allegheny county judge.

Supporters say taxes have become too much of a burden hurting homeowners and preventing development. They also bring up the fact services like fire and trash are already provided by Pittsburgh.

But Wilkinsburg School board director and Democratic nominee for mayor of Wilkinsburg, Dontae Comans says property taxes in Wilkinsburg have actually gone down, and for a borough of 15,000 people this community can’t afford to lose its political identity.

“They bring up the fire and the trash, like they do it for free. We pay them to do that. They have to make it make sense it just can’t be like a switch of a button and we become the city and it’ll make everything better, Comans said.

But Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb, who’s in favor of having this discussion about a possible merger, says Wilkinsburg is not in jeopardy of losing its political identity. Rather it could theoretically gain a stronger support system.

“We took over their Bureau of Fire several years ago, response times are down, their costs are down, and so that’s been a very successful consolidation of services so moving to the next conversation makes a lot of sense,” Lamb said. Every neighborhood in Pittsburgh is different this would become another great neighborhood in Pittsburgh.”

But Comans and others against the idea say Wilkinsburg can become a great place on its own.

“Once we get everyone to think community first we can change a lot of things with that,” Comans said.

If a judge approves the petition it would then head to Pittsburgh City Council who would have to approve the annexation proposal. Then it would be reviewed by another judge, and if approved it would be put on the ballot as a referendum in Wilkinsburg.