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Work contracts OKd to improve appearance, roadwork at Lake Lanier Islands
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BUFORD — The Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority has approved contracts for additional roadwork and cosmetic enhancements to the primary bridge at the 1,100-acre resort.

The $9.5 million road repaving and enhancement contract was awarded to GP’s Enterprises, while the $1.75 million bridge contract was given to Benchmark Building Contracting.

This is the second phase of roadwork on the island.

The first phase was completed just before Thanksgiving, in time for the opening of the resort’s Magical Nights of Lights holiday display.

The second phase will not begin until January, when the light show is completed. The work is expected to be finished before the resort’s beach and water park open in May.

The state authority oversees the islands, which are leased to the family of Gwinnett businessman Virgil Williams. He told the panel that his personal investment in the resort, including a complete remodeling of the major hotel, now known as Legacy Lodge, totals more than $40 million since acquiring the lease three years ago.

Williams conceded the combination of the major construction projects and the sagging economy has made this a challenging year for the resort.

"We’ve had a difficult year," Williams said. "How much construction interferes with your ability to do business was a little greater than we expected. Thank goodness that’s all behind us."

Williams said advance bookings for 2009 already are ahead of 2008.

In financial statements through September, the company showed revenues at the hotel, the largest revenue source on the islands, were $3.1 million behind the same point in 2007.

Revenue for the beach and water park was off by $2 million.

Overall revenue for the resort was off by $5.96 million.

The decline in the resort revenues has not impacted the authority, which is guaranteed a minimum payment of $250,000 monthly.