Cash-strapped WAVE transit warns city, county may be “forced to suspend operations”

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Transit WAVE is strapped for cash. Wilmington’s bus system depends on money from federal, state and local governments to operate, and some of that money has not materialized as quickly as expected.

WAVE expects approximately $ 1.2 million in state and federal guaranteed funding. Cash flow problems in Raleigh delayed $ 700,000 of money allocated to WAVE in the state budget, prompting the transportation authority to request a cash advance from the city and county.

“On behalf of the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, we are requesting a loan or cash advance of $ 700,000 on fiscal year 2021 funding,” Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority CFO Joseph Mininni wrote, in an email to the city and county on Tuesday. “This request goes beyond any additional support envisaged for the 2020 financial year. Without a loan or advance, the Authority will be forced to suspend its operations from February 15 of this year.”

Asked about the possibility of suspending the bus service next month after the Transportation Authority board meeting on Thursday, WAVE director Albert Eby downplayed the worst-case scenario described in the email.

“We have an agreement with the City of Wilmington that they will give us or may give us cash advances or advances against certain grants, so we’ve started the process, but no, we certainly don’t anticipate any interruptions. in service, ”Eby said. He later added that WAVE learned Thursday that the state would release $ 175,000 of the delayed funds this week to address the cash flow shortage.

While this will bring some relief in the short term, it might not last long. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo expressed serious concerns about the cash advance request when WECT contacted him by phone Thursday afternoon.

“This [request] was sent to [council members] yesterday, and we were all taken by surprise, ”Saffo said. He explained that a few years ago the city helped establish a fund balance for WAVE which he recalled to around $ 800,000, to help the transportation company deal with cash shortages in situations like this one. He believed the city was supposed to be notified if that balance of funds were to be depleted.

“Why is there no money in the fund balance? Saffo questioned the proposed cash advance. “Are we going to be in the same situation in 6 months, 8 months?

Eby and WAVE board members stressed that public transport is never a profitable business and depends on public funding to subsidize the service that many residents rely on to get to work and at their medical appointments. They said they are disappointed with the implications of some local leaders that the authority’s financial problems are the result of mismanagement.

“Until people see public transport as a service like any other service provided by the county, until they do and stop thinking about making our public transport systems generators. money, we’ll always have this problem, ”Cape Fear Public Transportation said Chairman of the Board, Steven Kelly.

Saffo said he expected a decision to be made on the cash advance request within two weeks.

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.

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