CONNECT's work over the past nine years has varied in projects and policies. The archives below record the history of CONNECT's work, and past projects and issue areas we have tackled with our member municipalities.
Blight and Abandonment Policy Working Group
Foreclosure Miscommunication and Improper Recording
Foreclosed and bank-owned properties that remain vacant can have serious negative impacts on the communities where they reside, especially when they are not kept code compliant and secure. Miscommunication and misunderstanding about the foreclosure process has caused numerous homeowners to prematurely abandon property, leaving the property with unclear ownership. As a problem that similarly affects many municipalities, CONNECT researched the frequency and severity of foreclosure miscommunication and improper recordings of deeds, and explored opportunities for educating homeowners and municipalities on the foreclosure process.
Data Collection Project
CONNECT assisted municipalities in collecting community data that reveals the true depth and scope of the issues caused by blight, vacancy and abandoned housing. In this project, CONNECT collaborated with community development organizations, Allegheny County, and municipal entities, to compile data to be used to implement new strategies to mitigate blight, encourage economic development, prevent crime and provide information for municipal infrastructure needs.
Economic Development Policy Working Group
Creating sustainable communities that have thriving economies requires coordination both down transportation corridors and across municipal boundaries. CONNECT's Economic Development Policy Working Group worked on several initiatives to identify ways our municipalities can work together to improve local business climates, increase employment and promote thriving communities in the urban core of Allegheny County.
Improving the economic climate of a region is an undertaking that requires the cooperation of a vast network of stakeholders. Since beginning to address economic development, CONNECT has established relationships with numerous community development corporations (CDCs) including the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), Allegheny County Economic Development (ACED) and Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
In March of 2012, CONNECT convened the first CDC Congress to discuss how area community leaders could strategically collaborate and advance community and economic develop for the urban core. The event had a great turnout of CDC and municipal representatives who convened for a robust discussion on the issues and challenges facing the urban core. The ideas and action items that resulted from that meeting are helping to inform CONNECT’s economic development work.
Economic Development Framework
CONNECT municipalities utilize varying types of economic development tools, regulations, rules and procedures that have often created a complicated path to project implementation for developers interested in investing in those municipalities. Each CONNECT municipality is engaged in community and economic development processes in their own neighborhoods, but recognize that a coordinated approach is needed to effectively leverage the power of the urban core. CONNECT plans to embark on a multi-year project which will develop the first known Integrated Community Economic Development Plan (ICED) for the urban core that will serve as a framework for economic growth.
Click here for a list of all resolutions passed by CONNECT that relate to our work in Economic Development.
Emergency Medical Services Working Group
In response to the funding crisis facing the Emergency Medical Services providers operating in our municipalities, CONNECT partnered with the Allegheny County EMS Council (ACEMS) to develop solutions and alleviate the financial hardships affecting the provision of Emergency Medical Services in our area.
In 2010, CONNECT released a report by City Controller Michael Lamb highlighting the challenges facing the 17 EMS providers in CONNECT called Critical Condition: The EMS Crisis in Pittsburgh and its Neighboring Communities. The report identified many of the issues facing our EMS providers and since then, CONNECT has been working with ACEMS to address these issues.
CONNECT Community Paramedic Program
In September 2013, CONNECT, along with Allegheny Council of Emergency Medical Services (ACEMS) and the Center for Emergency Medicine gained funding from Highmark and UPMC to create a community paramedic program for residents of the City of Pittsburgh and its bordering municipalities.
The goal of this project is to determine the impact of an EMS-based community health initiative on healthcare cost and quality metrics by calculating the projected savings, gaps in care or social support and health related quality of life for patients receiving the intervention when compared to their historical use or published data for similar populations.
Energy and Sustainability Policy Working Group
CONNECT assists member municipalities in addressing a variety of important issues around energy and sustainability. These issues, like many others CONNECT addresses, cross municipal boundaries and have constantly changing policies and technologies, making it a difficult policy area for any single community to effectively address.
Energy usage is one of the single largest expenses for an urban municipality. Since beginning to address energy and sustainability, CONNECT has sought out energy and money saving opportunities for its members. Member municipalities including Etna, Edgewood, Baldwin Borough, and Green Tree, have saved thousands of dollars by combining their buying power with other CONNECT communities and purchasing their energy through reverse auctions.
One of the best ways to save energy and lower costs is by instituting sustainable practices and policies. Sustainability policies go hand in hand with energy usage and efficiency and CONNECT continually monitors changing trends for our municipalities and advocates for them when it’s beneficial.
LED Street Lighting
When the City of Pittsburgh began a program of switching from High Pressure Sodium (HPS) streetlights to Light Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights in order to save energy and money, CONNECT set out to help the rest of its municipalities make the switch to energy and money saving LED technology. Unlike Pittsburgh, which owns its own streetlights, the CONNECT municipalities lease their streetlights from Duquesne Light and therefore could not request the installation of LED lamps without a change to the utility rate structure. To accomplish this, CONNECT partnered with Duquesne Light and has been working with them to facilitate a change from HPS to LED streetlights. A LED pilot was implemented in CONNECT communities as part of the rate structure addition in 2014.
CONNECT partnered with the City of Pittsburgh to provide municipalities the option of buying energy at a reduced rate through a reverse auction. This program, that started with only three municipalities joining the city on Western PA’s Electricity Aggregation Program, has expanded to include more than 12 CONNECT municipalities who have realized a cost savings of over $192,000. Each year, more municipalities reap the benefits from this program.
Database for Green Infrastructure Projects
As part of municipal wet weather plans, member municipalities want to build green infrastructure projects in their communities. CONNECT assisted members by developing a database of funding opportunities for green infrastructure projects which will provide them quick access to potential funding streams.
Green infrastructure projects will help municipalities achieve their goal of complying with the EPA consent decree and they have numerous other benefits as well. Green infrastructure improves water quality, reduces flooding, and can potentially improve air quality and even raise property value by enhancing aesthetics.
Transportation Policy Working Group
Transportation issues cross municipal boundaries, are affected by county, state and federal level policy, and transportation technology and design is constantly evolving; making it an ideal subject area for CONNECT to address.
CONNECT’s Transportation Policy Working Group has consistently worked to ensure that the transportation needs of CONNECT communities are understood, and to advocate for transportation initiatives and projects that will benefit our urban core. CONNECT has developed relationships and collaborated with numerous organizations working to create better transportation options for the region, including the Port Authority of Allegheny County, 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Transportation for America and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Over the past few years, CONNECT has focused on a few key transportation issues, including advocating for increased and consistent public transportation funding. Funding for public transportation has long been unstable and inadequate, and last year CONNECT, along with our partners, advocated for the passage of state transportation funding bill that now is bringing an influx of desperately needed funding to Allegheny County’s Port Authority.
Comprehensive Report on Port Authority
With 93% of Port Authority ridership originating from CONNECT communities, advocating for public transit has always been a top priority. In recent years, the Port Authority was presented with a new governance structure and won a sizable increase in state funding. In order to help ensure that the Port Authority’s new board directs this funding appropriately, CONNECT is producing a comprehensive report on the specific transportation needs of the urban core.
Parking for Transit
The availability and use of parking near high volume transit stops in the urban core is increasingly a concern for residents and municipal leaders alike. In areas where Port Authority parking lots fill up early in the workday, transit riders park their automobiles in adjacent neighborhoods, taking parking spots away from municipal residents. While 70% of Port Authority riders live within CONNECT, over 93% of its riders get on Port Authority vehicles within member municipalities. CONNECT researched automobile parking policy best practices for “park and ride” users where there are no designated parking spaces or where those designated spaces fill up early during the workday. This research included an investigation into using private parking lots to serve as public transportation parking.
Liquid Fuels Funding Distribution
Municipalities in larger urban areas like Allegheny County's urban core suffer from a liquid fuels funding formula that only accounts for road mileage and population, and does not factor in the amount of traffic their roads transport on a daily basis. A formula that does not account for the traffic coming from populous neighboring municipalities results in insufficient funding for many urban municipalities. CONNECT sought to research possible formulas and solutions that will account for measures of traffic volume, not just population and road mileage.
CONNECT was selected in early 2011 as a recipient of an “Options for Regional Sewer System Management” award from 3 Rivers Wet Weather. The $95,000 grant was used to perform an analysis and develop recommendations for the issues of governing municipally-owned sewer lines located in the 19 CONNECT municipalities that have a direct flow connection with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA).
These connection points are governed by an assortment of formal and informal agreements separately negotiated by the PWSA and each individual municipality. The CONNECT Multijurisdictional Sewer Management Study examined the cost and condition of these multijurisdictional lines and the advantages/disadvantages of existing ownership approaches, and proposed alternative models of management and financing.
CONNECT in partnership with 3 Rivers Wet Weather developed a three-fold project that began in October 2013 to evaluate this work in concert with the ALCOSAN Sewer Regionalization Evaluation and accomplished the following goals:
1. Developed the framework needed for an expeditious transfer of all intermunicipal conveyance lines, trunk sewers and upstream wet weather facilities to ALCOSAN, including any proposed wet weather infrastructure included in the municipal feasibility studies;
2. Developed an efficient and coordinated consensus process to create incentivized source reduction programs through amended municipal service agreements between the communities and ALCOSAN; and
3. Created a consensus process, including the County Executive's office and local elected officials with the goal to establish a regional management system that will allow for the voluntary conveyance of municipal wastewater and stormwater to a regional entity.
The final report from the Sewer Regionalization Implementation Committee can be found here.