Can Fontana be saved?
Graham County Commissioners and Travel & Tourism Board members are concerned Fontana Village may go out of business and the Town of Fontana Dam could disappear.
The two boards recently met to formulate a plan to assist Fontana manage a heavy financial burden imposed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
“Ted and Avis Phillips have done a lot for Graham County, and they have used their own money to help finance Fontana,” Commissioner Raymond Williams said. “We need to do something to try and help them out.”
According to Williams, who is also chairman of the T&T Board, the TVA charged Fontana $60,000 to repair electric lines the Fontana staff fixed before TVA arrived.
Williams says there are other issues:
• The TVA charges Fontana $40,000 a month for power.
• Fontana’s lease is $110,000 plus 20% of profits. The lease was $90,000 two years ago.
• Fontana has a 30-year, non-renewable lease.
Williams is insistent the county should intervene since Fontana is Graham County’s second largest employer and largest contributor of occupancy tax. He fears no one will purchase Fontana Village because of the heavy burden imposed by the TVA.
T&T Board Member Revonda Williams stated that Fontana Village could be profitable if the land rent was reduced. She believes TVA’s Rural Economic Development Programs could be used to assist Fontana.
T&T Board Member Robin Turner suggested the county try to assist extend the lease, or try to buy the property to keep the business alive.
Members of both boards agreed to send a presentation letter to Congressman Mark Meadows.
Commissioner Connie Orr suggested forming a coalition and initiating dialogue with TVA.
The board agreed to a coalition of Fontana Village General Manager Greg Corvelle, Economic Development Director for Graham County Sophia Paulos, Graham County Manager Becky Garland, and businessman Robin Turner, with a “back-up” of Graham County Revitalization Economic Team Director Rick Davis, and Commissioner Dale Wiggins, with a back-up of Commissioner Orr.