A member of the Wilmington City Council highlighted his city government’s inflation challenges during an appearance Thursday on Capitol Hill.
Luke Waddell took part in a roundtable discussion led by Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“After being invited to the roundtable, I requested from our city staff in Wilmington to put together some capital improvement projects that have been affected,” Waddell told GOP lawmakers. “I was kind of anticipating one or two coming back as some examples.”
“Within a matter of hours, they sent me five capital improvement projects, all of which were planned and budgeted, and the actual cost came in for each one of them well over 100% of the original project budget — one as high as 250% over that budget, resulting in a rejection of the bid and the project being put on hold for the foreseeable future,” he added.
“These are real-time capital projects that provide core services that we as a municipality are having to consider scrapping or moving them far into the future,” Waddell said.
Other cities are likely to face the same issues as Wilmington.
“We’re kind of experiencing unprecedented growth,” Waddell said. “This growth is certainly exacerbating the need for the critical infrastructure projects. It’s spotlighting the challenges that inflation is causing to these critical projects, with several local municipalities having to make decisions on whether to raise taxes on the citizen that’s already stretched just about as thin as they could be, or proposing bonds or sales tax referendums on upcoming ballots.”
“Inflation’s impact on the citizens that I represent is the most important day-to-day issue they’re facing,” he added. For city government, the challenge is “just continuing to have to extend these project timelines or scrap them altogether that would provide core services.”
Waddell joined the Wilmington City Council in 2021. He took part in the Washington roundtable thanks to an invitation from U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, R-7th District.
The congressman offered thoughts about ways his colleagues could help ease inflation pressures.
“North Carolina is sitting on $5.2 billion in unspent COVID money, and a lot of that is in the area of broadband and water and waste, where the state has appropriated for it, but there’s no way they can possibly meet the federal deadlines,” Rouzer said. “I suspect there are many other states that are sitting on a tremendous amount of COVID money that could be, if we would allow it, … could be transitioned over to other infrastructure projects to help fill the gap.”
Rouzer also referenced the current nationwide worker shortage.
“It seems like, to me, it’s going to be really hard to get ahead of the inflation curve if you don’t have enough workers,” he said. “You can’t produce if you don’t have workers. And if you don’t have workers, you can’t ship what you produce. In my estimation, that’s probably 85-90% of the supply chain hiccups … lack of reliability of the workers. To be fair, we were short of workers before the pandemic hit, but even more so now for a variety of reasons.”