Local governments provide essential public services to community residents in exchange for the taxes they pay. Services include garbage and recycling collection, street and tree maintenance, building code enforcement and permitting, and zoning and community planning, among others. Merging with the City will provide Wilkinsburg with many more resources dedicated to essential public services.
What public service changes can we expect with a merger?
Garbage collection and recycling: The City’s Department of Public Works (DPW) already collects our garbage through a service agreement with the Borough. Recycling is collected by Borough employees. If we merge, garbage service wouldn’t change but the City would pick up recycling as well. The $200 annual fee that Wilkinsburg residents currently pay for garbage and recycling would be eliminated.
Street and tree planning and maintenance: The City’s DPW includes a Forestry Division that manages tree planting, removal, and pruning. It also is responsible for street cleaning and maintenance, including repairs, snow removal, landscaping, and flood response. The City’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure has divisions dedicated to engineering design, paving, and construction. If a merger is approved, Wilkinsburg will benefit from all these services.
Building code enforcement and permitting: With a merger, the City’s Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections will provide resources that Wilkinsburg does not currently have to improve building safety and quality of life.
Community planning and zoning: Wilkinsburg has a history of developing robust plans for community improvement, but has lacked resources to implement them. A merger will help change that. In Pittsburgh, the Department of City Planning works with communities, civic organizations, and public entities to develop land use projects and programs that promote equity, sustainability, and resilience. To manage neighborhood planning and development projects, the City has 27 Registered Community Organizations (RCO). As a city neighborhood, Wilkinsburg would likely have its own RCO which would participate in public hearings and be guaranteed early access to every project developer.
Will someone finally do something about the raccoons in my yard?
Yes! The City’s Department of Animal Care and Control is staffed with 16 full-time employees who manage both domestic and wild animal issues. Services include resolving nuisance issues, rodent control, a spay and neuter program, and feral cat program, among others. With a merger, Wilkinsburg will gain access to this dedicated resource to deal with animal issues.
With a merger, will our voice be heard?
Many Wilkinsburg residents may be acquainted with their local council representative, and may value that access. In a merger, our representative will have a seat on City Council and will represent a much larger population than our current local council representatives. The City has multiple mechanisms for ensuring citizen input on a variety of issues, especially community planning and zoning matters that could impact the development of affordable housing and concerns about gentrification.
Isn’t snow removal a big problem in the city?
It is true that snow removal complaints from City residents sometimes make the news. Wilkinsburg has a reputation for handling this task well. The City has recently invested in technology designed to coordinate its fleet of trucks so no neighborhood will be left behind. This gives us reason to believe that future snow removal for City residents will be less of a concern.
What about access to city government services?
It may seem as if we will lose access to our local government in a merger. A merger will create changes, but access to necessary information, forms, and counsel will be easier. Unlike Wilkinsburg, the City has a large information technology infrastructure, including an in-depth web site that helps citizens find and resolve issues. Wilkinsburg residents have been frustrated for years about how to access services and the Borough’s lack of responsiveness. With a full-time Council member who has a paid staff, residents’ inquiries will be more easily directed for resolution.
Will my gas, electric, or water services be affected by a merger?
We don’t expect a merger to impact the cost of basic utilities. While service providers may change over time, cost of services should remain comparable.