Commissioners deny WAVE Transit request for supplemental funding


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Commissioners denied WAVE Transit’s request for additional funding for 2020.

Commissioner voted three to two, to deny the request for funding at a meeting Monday.

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Chairman Jonathan Barfield was shocked by the county’s original vote to pull out of its agreement with WAVE. Now, he says public transportation is necessary in a growing metropolitan area.

But other commissioners say they cannot keep putting money into WAVE while seeing little success.

“For folks that have no choice, that can’t afford Uber of Lyft or don’t have a car, we have to have public transportation,” Commissioner Woody White said. “We support that. I support that. I support that and always have, and will continue to.”

For White, the question is whether the WAVE Transit system is effective right now.

“I don’t support it in the means by which they keep coming and asking for money when they don’t budget properly,” White said.

Commissioners are split on whether to continue supporting WAVE.

“What message are we sending to the public if we have made a decision to no longer be a part of the public transportation system?” Barfield said.

In their request Monday, WAVE officials asked for an additional $57,000 for 2020. This funding is in addition to the money the county has already allocated to WAVE for the next fiscal year.

This comes just weeks after the board voted to pull out of its agreement with the Transit Authority come 2021.

“We challenged them, at the time, to re imagine and reinvent themselves, and to focus on what they do really well, which, in densely populated areas, they do,” White said. “But they have not done that.”

Barfield supports WAVE, but says the public transit does face funding issues.

“Many federal and state dollars,” Barfield said. “It creates a challenge. At the same time, there’s no real dedicated funding source for WAVE Transit.”

WAVE officials proposed an additional tax on car owners in New Hanover County or raising the sales tax, but White says WAVE did not have a plan on how to use that money to turn the transit system around.

“That just indicates to me a lack of leadership,” White said. “A lack of vision. I hope that board can reinvent itself and figure out what its future is.”

At the meeting, WAVE said the need for funding is more urgent than ever. They say one of their biggest issues is having a dedicated source of income.

But several commissioners acknowledged the need to look into reinventing the WAVE Transit system.