Commissioners accept grand jury’s recommendations
by Kristal Dixon
kdixon@cherokeetribune.com
September 06, 2012 12:23 AM | 1552 views | 3 3 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners directed its attorney to draft a resolution in support of a grand jury’s recommendations in how to move forward with Ball Ground Recycling during its meeting Tuesday.

The motion for a resolution passed unanimously and County Attorney Angie Davis said the resolution could come up for a vote during the commission’s Sept. 18 meeting.

In August, a grand jury recommended several actions in its presentments, most notably encouraging a “full and complete audit” on the financial operations associated with Ball Ground Recycling and the Resource Recovery Development Authority concerning the issuance of the bonds used to move Ball Ground Recycling off county-owned property on Blalock Road to a site off Highway 5 in Ball Ground. The grand jury also recommended the county recover all costs from Ball Ground Recycling owner Jimmy Bobo related to the project,

County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens, who added the commission appreciated the grand jury’s due diligence, said Tuesday the board was “totally supportive of a forensic audit.”

The board had previously discussed many of the actions the grand jury recommended and already had them under consideration.

During the work session, Ahrens added he would also support the grand jury launching an investigation of its own into the affair since it has more power to get information related to Ball Ground Recycling and Bobo and his other businesses.

Davis noted that would be “more desirable” than the county hiring a forensic auditor.

Ahrens also said he’s spoken in person with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and the Cherokee County state legislative delegation about changing state law to prohibit any county or city from publicly backing bonds through intergovernmental agreement or authorities. The commission also was positive in changing the make-up of the RRDA, which would include at least a majority of members not holding elected office.

County Commissioner Harry Johnston also said he welcomes an audit, adding, “We have nothing to hide.”

The county created the RRDA, made up of the five county commissioners, in 2006 and approved the bond rate for a maximum of $18.1 million in bonds.

The bonds were used to relocate Bobo’s company from its former location on Blalock Road near Holly Springs to its current site on Highway 5 just south of Ball Ground.

The county guaranteed financing through the issuance of bonds through the authority.

The grand jury also recommended the commission use every avenue to recoup the costs lost to taxpayers in the agreement with Bobo.

Davis noted the county has tried to request information, but added it had been difficult without subpoena powers.

“It’s been sort of a tug and pull,” she said, adding a deposition with Bobo has been set for Sept. 26 in bankruptcy court.

The county government owns about 160 acres on Blalock Road in the Toonigh community, 30 of which were being used by Bobo’s company under an agreement with the county, which recycles construction debris into landscaping materials, topsoil and mulch.

The acreage is across Blalock Road from the former county landfill, and was the site of the Cherokee Clean and Beautiful recycling facility supported by the county before Bobo took over the operation.

The Blalock Road site is now the site of the Badger Creek Soccer Park, which the county owns and is operated by Cherokee Soccer Association under an agreement with the county.

The county had to spend an additional $700,000 to remove debris and mulch related to Bobo’s company before proceeding with the soccer complex.

Bobo was under a lease agreement with the authority to pay $100,000 a month in bond payments up to $18.1 million borrowed by the authority to purchase land and equipment for the operation, which the authority owns under the agreement.

The county learned it would have to assume some of the debt when it was notified last year by the Bank of New York that Bobo had not made payments into the escrow account, and the county was obligated to make the payments.

The commission moved $1.8 million out of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds into the general fund in February to cover the payments on the debt after Bobo failed to make payments owed on the bonds the county had guaranteed.

Money from the general fund was originally used for expenses that were paid by SPLOST funds last year and the move would reimburse those payments back into the general fund, freeing the money up to cover the bond debt payment.

The county had to make $1.2 million in payments last year and still has to pay an additional $608,171.28 this year.

A total of $1.2 million was originally due on a yearly basis, with the county placing $101,000 into an escrow account each month for the purpose of making semi-annual debt service payments.

Ball Ground Recycling filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, which came just days before the county planned to force Bobo off the property if he did not pay some of the money owed to Cherokee County for bond payments.

The county then filed a motion to get relief from the bankruptcy stay, which allowed them to proceed with evicting Bobo from the property.

Judge Margaret H. Murphy of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Georgia signed the consent order on June 29, which required Bobo to leave the property and turn over any keys, documents or computer software relating to operating Ball Ground Recycling.

In an effort to begin recouping the monetary losses, the RRDA, along with Cherokee County as a joinder, petitioned the court to lift the automatic stay imposed due to the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
Comments
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Wasted
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September 16, 2012
Where was the county manager when all this was going on? I guess there is a hunt on for any wrong doing but wouldn't it be reasonable to expect a investigation after 18 million dollars was wasted. Can you believe nobody has been fired! Where can you get a job where 18 million dollars is wasted and still get paid? I have got to get a government job.
Calm &Cool
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September 08, 2012
Has anybody considered the county commission and Mr.Bobo just got caught up in the down turn of the economy.I feel sure no one concerned with this project likes the way things are now.

Make ball fields. It would be a great ball complex and probably be cheaper than we are putting in parks now.

Quit spending time and money trying to find something crooked and use all that talent to move forward. Let's all try being a little nicer.

#Mark P
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September 06, 2012
It seems like the county has it out for Bobo as the eviction took place at the beginning of July and the place has been closed since. That's 30 employees that are now on unemployment in Cherokee County and surrounding, not to mention the # Landscaping and Trucking of companies that hauled "in and out" of the wood yard. So another $200k and it still sits empty.
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