City, council plan to vote on amendment that could dissolve current WAVE board

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — For the past several months, New Hanover County’s WAVE Transit has been plagued with financial issues, questions about it’s future and diminished service.

Now, Wilmington City Council and the county board of commissioners are considering a major shake up.

They are considering an amendment to the interlocal agreement to replace the entire 11-member transportation board. If approved, the new one will be made up of county, city and Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization staff.

A delay in state and federal funds led Wave transit to make an emergency request for $700,000.

“We’ve been coming hat in hand to the city and county since our inception to get money,” Steve Kelley, the vice-chairman of the current transportation authority board, said.

Kelley is serving his second term and says this need for more money has become more routine in recent years as federal funds have declined.

“We have a shrinking pot of money for transit at the federal level,” Laura Padgett, a current board member, said. “It is constantly being re-evaluated so that runs downhill and so whatever gap exists in WAVE’s budget has to be filled in someway shape or form.”

Padgett says the budget is still recovering from providing transportation to evacuees during Hurricane Florence in 2018.

“WAVE’s funding comes from the federal government, from the state government and then from the city and the county,” Padgett said. “We are one of few transit systems that doesn’t have some dependable support.”

“We’ve never been able to establish a decent fund balance,” Kelley said. “The reason we are in existence today is we have a director who’s been a wizard at mobilizing federal and state funds.”

The city will also consider providing a $400,000 loan with the expectation that the funds will be paid back by the end of fiscal year. The county will also be considering approving a $300,000 loan to WAVE.

“I think if it’s conducted properly the city and county will come to the same conclusions that we have namely that we are underfunded,” Kelley.


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