Commissioners plan to terminate contract with WAVE Transit

Updated: Oct. 21, 2019 at 8:59 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - In a 3-2 vote, New Hanover County Commissioners voted Monday to give WAVE Transit notice that the county would be terminating its contract with the public transportation system.

Commissioner Julia Boseman made the motion to end the contract, starting July 1, 2021. Commissioners Woody White and Pat Kusek voted in favor of the motion. Commissioners Rob Zapple and chairman Jonathan Barfield voted against it.

“WAVE has been having financial problems for years,” Boseman said. “I think they need to focus on making the bus routes more efficient. The county staff has been instructed to find alternatives to bus transportation and to focus on the transportation for seniors and the disabled.”

The decision came as a surprise to Albert Eby, WAVE’s executive director.

“We were created by the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County, so we will have to look at our legal response,” Eby said. “A joint resolution created the agreement, we have to look at how that will be outdone. To undo something like this, we have $30 million in assets, it doesn’t mean the authority will cease to operate.”

WAVE has been faced with mounting financial issues. As 2020 looms, WAVE Transit is looking at a financial deficit of more than $745,000 thanks to increasing costs and stagnant revenue — all to simply maintain the level of service the authority provides now.

“The most unfortunate thing - even prior to this decision - when you talk about cutting service, you create anxiety,” Eby said. “For those who rely on public transit, when that goes away, it has a huge impact on everyday life. These decisions, how do they affect folks who are disabled who rely on our van service, if we drastically change where we serve, that has a big impact on folks that are going to medical appointments, dialysis for a life-supporting treatment.”

Eby says until further notice, it will be business as usual

“Tomorrow, we will do the same thing we did today until we can hear the details and draft a plan.”

“You already have WAVE having problems," added Boseman. "They’re already cutting the route down to Carolina Beach. We directly fund the route to North campus and will continue to do. UNCW directly funds the route to UNCW. I think the city needs to take a close look and start fixing their own problems. And we are going to do what’s best for the county.”

“My stomach is in knots right now," added Barfield. "I have been on the WAVE board for 11 years. So, I understand the service it provides to our community. Folks that ride the WAVE bus need the ride because they don’t have other means of transportation. Opposed to folks who ride because they want to ride. To impact that portion of our population is not a good thing to do.”

Wilmington City Councilman Neil Anderson had this response when told of the commissioners’ vote: “It’s unfortunate for sure. We are such a small county in terms of landmass, and more and more urban every day. I am sure some citizens outside the city will be hurt by this decision. I do not recall all the finances from memory but may also hurt county residents that live in the city limits. I am curious about the timing, but respect whatever decision they made. I am out of town and did not hear or see their session.”

This is a developing story. Stay with WECT News and We’ll provide more information as soon as it comes into our newsroom.

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