During the seventies and eighties, Felix Cooper served as New Hanover County’s finance manager and later, its county manager. Following those sixteen years of local service, a subsequent stint as city manager of Key West in Florida, and several years of retirement, the Democrat is throwing his hat in the ring again. This time, he’s vying for a seat on Wilmington’s City Council. And, Cooper is a major proponent of increased synergy between the city council and the county commission.
Duke Energy Progress will be closing its coal-fired power operation serving New Hanover County this December. Pollutants are slowly leaching from the coal-ash basins surrounding the Sutton plant toward groundwater wells that supply drinking water for the nearby Flemington community. However, decommissioning the plant’s ash basins will not guarantee safety for nearby groundwater supplies—not for a long time, that is.
Over the summer, New Hanover County cut WAVE Transit’s funding significantly from the previous year, resulting in the likely closures of routes serving northern New Hanover County and Pleasure Island. However, WAVE was granted slightly more state funding this year for its Rural Operating Assistance Program. But since WAVE won’t be able to use that money to help salvage the routes in question, it will likely extend their current closure date—September thirtieth—until after WAVE’s board meets with the New Hanover County Commission to make final decisions in October.
Since Governor McCrory signed the Voter ID Bill into law on Monday, three civil rights groups have filed lawsuits. They challenge new requirements for state-issued IDs, elimination of same-day registration--and an early voting period that will be shortened by seven days. Critics of the bill say the latter in particular will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians—particularly minorities. About 64 percent of New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender County citizens voted early in the 2012 election.
Wilmington and its nearby beach communities are enjoying record visitor spending. New Hanover County saw an eight percent increase in tourism dollars last year -- the second-biggest statewide gain after Currituck County. The Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau credits this hike to increased in-state visitors.
Under a newly passed House bill, North Carolinians will see a price hike in movie tickets, live performances and museum admission. The “Tax Simplification and Reduction Act” cuts personal and corporate taxes and imposes a uniform tax rate, as well as a 4.75% privilege tax on many leisure pursuits--including non-profit events. And local representatives say they were given inadequate time to consider the bill before voting on it.
New Hanover County is seeking public feedback on new strategies that will affect recycling operations, landfill space and other aspects of countywide waste management. At an open meeting Tuesday night, half a dozen locals expressed mounting concern over the lifespan of the county landfill.
On Friday, Bill Saffo filed to run for his fourth term as Mayor of the City of Wilmington. The incumbent, who has led the city since 2006, is talking about seeing projects -- such as the Cape Fear Skyway Bridge, the convention center hotel construction and the cross-city trail -- through to completion.
The future of New Hanover County is bright says Commission Chairman Woody White. Unemployment is declining, collaboration with the City of Wilmington and the beach towns is expanding, and the County just landed a coveted triple-A bond rating.
If you build it, they will come. But before that happens, someone has to pay to put it together. The City of Wilmington and New Hanover County combined transportation forces to form Wave Transit almost a decade ago. The authority was set up on its own, independent of both city and county government. It also started with no cash balance, meaning no money in the bank. In part 2 of a series on Wave Transit, we explore the financial woes of the agency.
One thing is certain about funding for public transportation: the federal government doesn’t just give it to you.