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Pittsburgh police, fire residency rule upheld in referendum

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Pittsburgh police officers and firefighters can put off looking for homes in the suburbs, since voters Tuesday appeared to uphold a residency requirement for city workers.

The measure was passing with 80 percent of the vote and 97 percent of precincts reporting.

Some city workers long have argued they should be allowed to live anywhere and not required to stay in Pittsburgh. The residency requirement is a city ordinance, but the referendum concerned whether to make it part of Pittsburgh's home rule charter.

“In terms of public safety officers, it's important they have contact with citizens above and beyond their jobs,” said Councilman Ricky Burgess, who backed the referendum. “I believe it's those interpersonal interactions that help build stronger relationships.”

The referendum was among several questions voters decided.

Residents of Homestead, West Homestead and Munhall agreed to pay a special tax — one-third of a mill — to maintain and operate the Carnegie Library of Homestead. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay less than $35 a year toward the library.

The measure failed by seven votes in Whitaker, by a count of 87 opposed to 80 in favor.

Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie established the library in 1898 as a gift to the community, but the $1 million endowment he made more than a century ago does not go as far as it used to, said Carol Shrieve, director of administration.

The library falls short each year by about $200,000 and would have cut hours, programs and services if the referendums failed, she said.

“We are the largest community anchor that the Steel Valley has,” Shrieve said. “If we didn't have this in our community, I do not know where many of our consumers and patrons would go.”

Homestead Library makes about $280,000 a year from its music hall and $185,000 a year from its fitness center.

Separately, McKeesport residents voted on nine questions, agreeing to start using the word “councilperson” in place of councilman and to require council members to live in the city for at least a year before taking office.

Andrew Conte is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7835 or andrewconte@tribweb.com.

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