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Unreal! Wexford bounced from list

| Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The fall was dramatic, the descent startling in its scope.

Just a year ago, Wexford was on top of the world. Based on the area's population boom, a higher-than-average income and a continuing rise in property values, Money magazine ranked it America's 28th best town in which to live.

No other locale in Western Pennsylvania ranked among Money's top hundred, so there was cause for celebration.

Impassioned cries of "We're Number 28! We're Number 28!" didn't dissipate along the nearby Interstate 79 corridor until the Steelers won the Super Bowl in February.

Money's latest list of the 100 best doggone places to live was released Monday, and each Wexfordite, Wexforder or Wexfordian had reason to be stunned.

And outraged.

Their coveted 28th ranking was taken by Edison, N.J., which arguably peaked nearly 130 years ago, when it was known as Raritan Township and became the birthplace of recorded sound.

Just how far did Wexford fall?

It dropped below Round Rock, Texas, (48), Broken Arrow, Okla., (66), Beaverton, Ore. (79) and even Oshkosh, Wis. (85).

That's right. Wexford couldn't even best Oshkosh, B'Gosh!

It didn't crack Money's Top 100 at all this year.

For a clue as to what might have led to Wexford's downfall, I drove up I-79 Tuesday and stopped at the Wexford Post Office Deli & Catering -- an old post office that, you may have surmised, now is an eatery.

I asked the woman behind the counter, Elaine Vogel, 58, if Wexford had experienced a sudden upswing in chainsaw-related criminal activity.

"No," she said.

I wondered if the Pine Creek watershed had been ravaged by a tsunami or discovered to be a popular alligator breeding ground.

"No," she repeated.

Nor were there any plans afoot to place a nuclear generator, rendering plant or maximum-security correctional facility amid the upscale housing developments along Route 910.

How then, I asked, had Wexford fallen so precipitously in Money's estimation?

"I think it's probably because they finally realized it's not an actual place," Vogel said.

That's true.

Allegheny County has an amazing number of municipalities -- 130 in all -- but Wexford isn't one of them.

Don't believe it• Try getting directions to the Wexford Municipal Building sometime.

As Money learned to its chagrin last year, Wexford is nothing more than a common postal address shared by residents of four communities: Pine, Franklin Park, McCandless and Marshall.

All four are attractive upper-middle-class suburban locales. But in the eyes of the Money editors, they apparently are not as nice individually as they are when they collectively form the Wexford postal zone.

Living in a locale whose formal lack of existence appears to have cost it favorable publicity as one of America's best places to reside doesn't bother Vogel.

She is a Wexforder with a touching loyalty to a place she calls home, though she can never officially reside there.

"I might live in Pine," she said. "But I tell people I'm from Wexford."

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