In a contentious finale to a meeting full of resident support for maintaining an independent Wilkinsburg, the Borough Council voted 5-3 with one abstention to pass a resolution severing its relationship with the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC).
Nearly two dozen speakers delivered their thoughts during the public comment sections of the meeting. Nearly all spoke against annexation, questioning the motives of those supporting the proposal and even questioning how the effort is being funded.
Voting against the resolution severing the WCDC relationship were councilmembers Petrulli, Haughton, and LeFebvre. Councilmember Scott was absent from the meeting. The meeting was the final one for Petrulli and LeFebvre, along with Edmunds, who voted in favor of the resolution, as their terms expire at the end of December.
To the surprise of at least council president Macklin, LeFebvre disclosed only minutes before voting on the measure that he serves on the board of directors of the WCDC. Other council members seemed to be unaware of LeFebvre’s position with WCDC. WF has asked the borough if council members are required to disclose their conflicts of interest, to abstain from voting when a conflict exists, or both.
Afterward, the Borough Council released this statement:
On December 15, 2021 Wilkinsburg Borough Council, on behalf of the residents of Wilkinsburg, voted to rescind all support and sever any relationship with the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation [WCDC]. The WCDC has failed in its partnership with the Wilkinsburg Borough. Having been tasked with revitalizing the main business corridor of Wilkinsburg since its inception in 2008, there is an undeniable gulf between established expectations and the experienced reality. This year, the WCDC, an unelected nonprofit, with a mission to develop the community of Wilkinsburg, has instead channeled its grant and foundation money to petition for and publicize a political process to remove Wilkinsburg Borough from the map—money intended to charitably benefit the community of Wilkinsburg. Asked to present their case to the public at Council, they have refused, and left the majority of the public in the dark. In recognition of this, Wilkinsburg Borough Council has severed any and all support and called for an investigation into the WCDC’s financing and use of monies intended for charitable purposes.
TribLive also covered the separation in “Wilkinsburg severs ties with borough development group over annexation debate” – TribLive, Dec. 23, 2021. Post-Gazette covered it, too, in “Wilkinsburg council severs ties with community-development nonprofit over annexation dispute“.
What does this mean? At face value, it means that the Wilkinsburg government will no longer support the WCDC in any meaningful way if any way at all.
One example that is as of yet unclear is the arrangement wherein WCDC manages the Wilkinsburg Train Station, which the borough itself owns. The WCDC led the $6.5 million restoration project for the station that was built in 1915 but abandoned in 1965. Wilkinsburg council and WCDC attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building opening in October 2021. To the knowledge of WF, there are no tenants yet. Read more in “Wilkinsburg gets another boost from $6.5 million train station renovation” in NextPittsburgh, October 6, 2021.