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This Senate Bill Could Change Swain County's Access To "Road To Nowhere" Fund

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Lake Fontana was built in the 1940s flooding 48 communities, according to a commerative plaque outside the Swain County Courthouse.

  A bill in the North Carolina General Assembly would allow Swain County to control more of the money it was paid by the federal government for the so-called ‘Road To Nowhere.”

Last July, the federal government paid up on a 75-year-old bill to Swain County for the “Road To Nowhere.” The over $30 million payment was the last installment of the $52 million tab that was promised to Swain County back in the 1940s.  That’s when the federal government was going to build a road to connect to areas flooded by the construction of Fontana Dam.

 

The North Carolina State Treasurer invests the money the county received, but Swain County does get to spend the interest from each year.

 

Swain County Manager Kevin King explains they want to be able to invest the fund more efficiently so that it can earn more. Right now they can’t move the money.

 

“So they didn’t give us that authority and so this bill would give us that authority and to invest the money in a better area and we will hopefully be able to get a better return,” says King.

 

Senator Jim Davis introduced the bill, but it is currently stuck in the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate. King is hoping that they make some more changes to the measure such as letting the county access the funds more often.

 

“The way it’s on the books right now is that we can access it once a year but this would change it to once a quarter,” says King.

 

The Swain County Commissioners are against a paragraph which makes the fund available to cover retirement benefits for any organization receiving county funding.  

 

“If they fail to meet their requirements for the state employees retirement fund or the local retirement fund then this money would be withheld from our fund to cover the cost of that,” says King.

 

King says right now the county is using the fund to reduce its debt.

 

“So we are trying to get as much debt reduced in the next couple years as possible and after that we are hoping to look to some future programs for the local community and maybe some grant opportunities for some nonprofits,” says King.

 

 

The county has gotten $750,000 in interest earned so far in 2019, according to King.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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