Local City Grows Through Upcoming Merge

By: Colin Schroyer

As a part of the November 8th general election, residents of Hermitage and Wheatland, both located in Mercer County, voted to have the municipalities merge, with the decision effective as of January 1st, 2024.

Hermitage was initially founded as Hickory Township back in 1796, with the municipality growing and developing over time and gaining the new name of Hermitage in 1975, which was also decided through a vote during the general election. The city has a population of over 16,000 citizens, and with a land area of just shy of 30 square miles, it is the sixth-largest municipality in Pennsylvania in terms of size.

Wheatland is a small borough nestled between Farrell and Hermitage, with a population of just over 500 and an area smaller than 1 square mile.

The idea for the merger came about long before the election, in October 2019, when Wheatland officials reached out to the city of Hermitage regarding the concept. By February 2020, the borough began pursuing a grant intended to fund a study looking at the prospective outcomes of the merger. While progress on acquiring a grant and performing the study was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by August of that same year, a grant was approved for a study to be conducted by the Pennsylvania Economy League. When the study was completed in November 2021, the results were clear: the merger would be a win-win for both municipalities.

Several benefits will come to Wheatland residents because of the merger. Residents and children will be eligible for recreational activities offered to Hermitage citizens and students. They will have the opportunity to serve on one of many committees or boards that the city has, including city officials. The Wheatland Volunteer Fire Department will continue to operate and even serve as part of the Hermitage Fire Department. While income tax will increase for Wheatland residents from 1% to 1.75%, municipal property taxes will go down by nearly 80%. And finally, schooling, school districts, and school-related costs and taxes will be unaffected as part of the merger.

While the area of Wheatland is small, the significantly reduced property taxes will hopefully encourage construction and development, as noted in the Strategic Management Planning Program Report written by the Pennsylvania Economy League showcasing its findings as a part of the study.

Wheatland residents will not be the only ones benefiting as well. The short-term effects of the merger will be close to unnoticeable. Still, for Hermitage, the additional income of tax dollars from Wheatland can financially support and improve the city and its services.

“I am elated that [the merger] passed,” said Wheatland Mayor Ron Viglio regarding the results of the vote, “I am looking forward to the transition and our community growing and being a part of Hermitage… I think this was a good time for us to get with another community and be part of a larger community.”

Hermitage residents share a similar sentiment. Hermitage commissioners President Duane Piccirilli expressed joy both in the merger and the public’s involvement in the matter. “Hermitage has outstanding safety services and staff leadership, it would be a plus for any community,” said Piccirilli.

As the merger will not go into effect until the start of 2024, both Hermitage and Wheatland will have ample time to work out any unforeseen aspects of the merger that may remain unresolved as of now.

It is important to understand the scope of a relatively small town and how this merger will impact not only the municipalities involved but the larger Mercer County and its communities. The city of Hermitage is located roughly 15 miles south of Greenville, PA, and Thiel College.

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