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Merger does little for insurance rates in Wilkinsburg

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Wilkinsburg residents have reason to feel more safe from the risk of a fire than they did three years ago, but that doesn't mean they pay less for homeowners insurance.

Pittsburgh in 2011 absorbed the borough's 26-member fire department, tripling the number of firefighters available to respond to calls. Trevor Lloyd, principal of Lloyd's Insurance & Investments in Regent Square, said quotes from his agency dropped suddenly after the merger but have inched back up because of claims from bad weather.

“All things being equal, a better (safety) rating will mean better premiums. Unfortunately, not all things are equal,” he said.

Still, an improved rating from the Insurance Services Office, a Jersey City, N.J.-based group that provides risk analysis for insurance providers, can soften the hit of rate increases.

“(Wilkinsburg residents) might have gotten a $50 increase in your premium instead of a $75 increase,” Lloyd said.

The ratings are based on a community's communications system, water infrastructure and fire department training, equipment and coverage.

“Before, with any structure fire in the community, we would have only had a maximum of eight firefighters responding — nine with the chief,” borough manager Marla Marcinko said. “With the partnership with the city, we have 24 firefighters responding in the same amount of time.”

Lloyd said Wilkinsburg's rating of 2 is good, and rare in Pennsylvania. A rating of 1 is the best on the 10-point scale. Previously, Mt. Lebanon was the highest-rated suburb with a 3, he said.

Business owners such as Tom Norulak of Norulak Screen Printing, Chris Miller of Wilkinsburg Beverage Co. and John Stanton, owner of Stanton Industrial Electrical Supply on Penn Avenue, are among those who say their rates haven't changed, though.

“I called my insurance guy about (the upgrade) when I heard,” Stanton said. “But he told me that anything up to a six (rating) is always about the same for business insurance rates.”

Wilkinsburg will pay Pittsburgh $7.6 million total through 2015 for fire coverage. Under the arrangement, the city hired Wilkinsburg's firefighters. Wilkinsburg has one fire station, on Ross Avenue.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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