Pittsburgh City Council is holding a public hearing Saturday to gather comments on a proposal to annex neighboring Wilkinsburg as the city’s 91st ward.
The proposal has received mixed reactions in Wilkinsburg so far.
The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp. led the effort to consider merging with Pittsburgh “as a means of reducing property taxes, stabilizing the community and improving the quality of service,” the community group written on a website supporting annexation.
As the group gathered petition signatures from more than 642 residents to officially kick off the process, exceeding the minimum number required, Wilkinsburg elected officials have expressed opposition to the proposal. Wilkinsburg Borough Council in February voted against any merger attempt.
“A merger would destroy Wilkinsburg,” Denise Edwards, interim chairperson of the borough council, told the Tribune-Review. âAs an elected official, how can you possibly destroy your own community? That does not make sense.
Pittsburgh City Comptroller Michael Lamb has expressed support for the annexation of Wilkinsburg, noting that issues such as crime and stormwater do not recognize a border between the two. A merger, he said, would keep Pittsburgh’s population above 300,000, as the city recently suffered a population loss, and could streamline services to Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg.
Pittsburgh is home to nearly 303,000 people, while Wilkinsburg is home to over 14,000 residents, according to the 2020 census.
The Pittsburgh Fire Department already serves Wilkinsburg, and the borough already shares other services with Pittsburgh.
Saturday’s public hearing, which will begin at noon in the City Council Chamber and will be broadcast online, will be the first held by Pittsburgh City Council on the issue.
Councilor Ricky Burgess, whose district is adjacent to Wilkinsburg, previously told the Tribune-Review he was “open to the conversation about a merger,” but declined to comment on Friday.
As of Friday morning, more than 20 people had registered to speak at the hearing, according to the city clerk’s office.
The proposed annex requires the approval of Pittsburgh City Council. If the board approves it, the measure will be reviewed by a judge. If approved by a judge, then it would be put on the ballot in a referendum in Wilkinsburg.
It’s unclear when city council will be able to put the measure on its agenda for a vote, but a post-agenda meeting on the measure is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
Members of the public who wish to speak at Saturday’s public hearing can register online or by calling the City Clerk’s office at 412-255-2138. Speakers must register by 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Written statements may also be submitted to the clerk’s office by email.