Wednesday, February 8, 2023

‘Major changes’ to WAVE Transit to be proposed to city council and county commissioners

Wave Transit is facing some major changes to its board. (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — There are big changes being proposed for the region’s public transportation service known as Wave Transit — a service that has struggled with funding for some time now.

“At their meetings next week, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and Wilmington City Council will propose major changes to WAVE Transit in response to WAVE’s recent request for $700,000 in additional funding. Some of WAVE’s anticipated state and federal funds for this year have been delayed and WAVE has notified the city that they would have to suspend operations as soon as Feb. 15 without the loan,” according to City of Wilmington spokeswoman Malissa Talbert.

This statement once again confirms what Wave’s director of finance stated in an email earlier this month — that if the transit authority did not get the additional $700,000 they would be forced to suspend services. Despite this, Executive Director of Wave Albert Eby issued a statement following the publication of a Port City Daily article claiming the authority was not considering any loss of service.

So what are these proposed changes?

According to Talbert, “Both elected bodies will consider – on Monday for NHC and Tuesday for the city – an amendment to an existing interlocal agreement proposing that the existing 11-member Cape Fear Transportation Authority Board be dissolved and replaced on an interim basis by a board made up of high-level city and county staff.”

The two entities have already agreed to a restructuring of Wave Transit following the county’s decision to withdraw from the current interlocal agreement.

“The new board would remain in place while the city and county conduct a review of Wave’s current operations and options for improvement, which was approved at the last Board and Council meetings,” Talbert said.

Proposed members of the new Public Transportation Authority are listed below (note, Wilmington provided only titles, not names; the individuals currently in those positions have been added):

  • New Hanover County Manager, Chris Coudriet
  • City of Wilmington Manager, Sterling Chetham
  • City of Wilmington Attorney, John Joye
  • New Hanover County Deputy Attorney (either Kemp Burpeau or Sharon Huffman)
  • City of Wilmington Finance Director, Jennifer Maready
  • New Hanover County Finance Director, Lisa Wurtzbacher
  • Executive Director of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Mike Kozlosky (also Wilmington transporation planning director)

So what about the funding request? Well, the city is willing to provide $400,000 of the requested $700,000 — but with a caveat.

“As proposed, the city would provide a loan of $400,000, with the expectation that the funds would be paid back by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. If the funds haven’t been repaid by then, the city would have the option to withhold local funds allocated for next year’s budget,” Talbert said.

New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will vote on a similar agenda item on Monday, offering the remaining $300,000 to fulfill Wave’s request, with a similar expectation of repayment by the end of the fiscal year.

“The newly created board, if approved, would hold an initial meeting on Feb. 10 at noon at Wave’s Forden Station, located at 505 Cando Street,” Talbert concluded.

Related: Amid conflicting explanations and statements, top WAVE official promises answers soon

Eby said on Friday, January 24 that Wave aimed to provide documents to explain the authority’s financial situation ‘in layman’s terms’ earlier this week, but as of press time those documents had not materialized.

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