Because the City of Pittsburgh has had a contract since 2006 to pick up Wilkinsburg's trash, it already has experience with delivering an essential public service to this eastern suburb. But each scenario comes with its own complications, and so does a prospective merger of fire departments.
Any deal would need the OK of the two municipalities, the General Assembly and the two state groups that watchdog Pittsburgh's finances. The city firefighters union is also involved because the Pittsburgh fire department would offer jobs to Wilkinsburg's 26 paid firefighters while taking over the borough's fire facilities.
Wilkinsburg could save $500,000 to $700,000, said city firefighters union President Joe King, on its annual $2.2 million budget for fire service. Pittsburgh would be paid to fight fires in Wilkinsburg. City Public Safety Director Michael Huss cautioned that it's too early to calculate the dollars.
Regardless of the amount, there is more to be studied than cost and revenue. Effectiveness is key in such a life-or-death service, and the parties involved -- not to mention the public -- must pay close attention to that.
This idea was discussed as recently as 2003 and 2008, with no agreement. Maybe three times will be a charm, but only if Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg can agree that the benefit is mutual.