Western Washtenaw Area Value Express (WAVE) staff and board members are looking to the next 40 years of providing public transportation service to the residents of Chelsea and Dexter after recently celebrating their new headquarters located at 12172 Jackson Road in Dexter.
WAVE recently celebrated its 41st year in service and moved into the building that houses the Chelsea Area Construction Agency (CACA) and hosts Lima Township board meetings on September 30, the birthday of WAVE Executive Director Michaelene Pawlak.
Pawlak was very proud this past Thursday as a gathering of more than 30 staff, board members, and supporting partners from the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce gathered for a ribbon cutting and to listen to a rundown of how the need for a new facility came to be and what it meant for WAVE and the service it will provide to the public going forward.
“We looked through the community for spaces that would not only accommodate current staff but have storage space and room to grow,” Pawlak said. The need to move came as St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea has been expanding their facilities in recent years and the latest planned expansion left no room for WAVE, which was housed on the SJMC campus at no cost until earlier this year.
Despite SJMC no longer providing free facilities on their property for WAVE, Pawlak said that the hospital and its administrators are still “major” sponsors and supporters of the WAVE and the programs that it runs to help western Washtenaw residents get where they need to go.
WAVE will operate out of the Old US 12 building as a tenant of CACA on a 10-year lease with an option to renew for another 10 years available at the end of the initial lease. Pawlak thanked John Thorhauer, President & CEO of United Methodist Retirement Communities, for referring her to the CACA space.
“This was completely cinderblocks and cord walls with nothing but a roughed out bathroom and one storage room that CACA staff were using,” Pawlak said. “You can fit our former space in here twice. It had to storage space and the room to grow that we needed, so we started negotiations and determined that this was the best space, the price was right, and (CACA) shared the cost of the buildout.”
For 40 years WAVE has operated with a single dispatcher, but now the dispatch staff will grow by one. The new facility will also allow the bus drivers to pull up to the building to directly interact with dispatchers to handle paperwork. Drivers can also come inside and push their pencils in a new Team Center area that will be built out with more equipment and better accommodations as grants become available.
The new facility’s geographic location is also important, given WAVE’s expansion over the years beyond its initial beginning focus of the Chelsea area. Up to this point, WAVE has added a Lifeline van service with stops at most major area hospitals such as STMC, St. Joseph Mercy Ypsilanti, University of Michigan Hospital, and the Veterans Administration Hospital, and various other sites throughout the county.
WAVE operates door-to-door bus programs in the Chelsea area and in the Dexter School District. WAVE buses are open to everyone who needs a ride with or without a disability or age status.
An inter-urban service has established routes connecting Chelsea, Dexter, and Ann Arbor. Also WAVE and Ann Arbor Transportation Authority partner to provide regular bus service throughout the Jackson Road corridor.
Pawlak said that participation from the public in WAVE services has been increasing every year and as her staff grows into their new home, the public should expect better and more expansive service from her staff under the leadership of the WAVE Board of Trustees.
“We really are thankful for where we’re at…hopefully we can share this space with community groups and public entities for community meetings and programs,” Pawlak said. “We don’t want this to be just a private space for us. It’s going to be a shared space for the whole community. I can see it filling up fast.”
Pawlak also said that information on a volunteer program to help WAVE provide its service on a broader basis would also be announced in the future.
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