Grand jury findings in Ball Ground Recycling deal released
by Joshua Sharpe
jsharpe@cherokeetribune.com
April 17, 2013 12:00 AM | 2488 views | 5 5 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — A January 2013 grand jury has issued its findings in the investigation of the highly scrutinized Ball Ground Recycling deal between Cherokee County’s Resource Recovery Development Authority and Jimmy Bobo.

The RRDA was formed in 2006 to guarantee debt on $18 million in bonds to relocate Bobo’s recycling company from its location on Blalock Road to a new site on Highway 5 south of Ball Ground.

Bobo filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Since then, Cherokee County has been responsible for bond payments on the property in the amount of about $100,000 per month.

The January grand jury is the most recent of three to investigate the deal and the RRDA, which was originally composed of the five members of the board of commissioners.

The newest grand jury report lays out criticisms of the situation both big and small.

One of the smaller is the grand jury’s finding that the BGR facility, which the county is trying to unload to take the burden off county taxpayers, has no sign advertising it for sale or lease.

County commissioner and original and current RRDA member Harry Johnston said Monday that issues like this are easy to fix.

Other issues like the grand jury’s statement that it received conflicting information on how the final purchase price for the land for the facility was calculated, Johnston said, are more difficult.

Johnston said that the grand jury wasn’t able to get the proper information is “not surprising.”

It’s also a “key point of the county’s current lawsuit against the Bobos,” he said.

Johnston, who was not interviewed by the January grand jury, said that the final purchase price paid to Bank of North Georgia for the land was $3.685 million, but it is not evident where that price came from.

“The clearest language in the contract,” he said, “indicates that the land would be transferred at the Bobos’ cost, which would be expected to include interest and transaction costs.”

But further conversations with the Bobos have suggested that other language within the contract could have allowed the Bobos to make a profit, Johnston said.

The grand jury reports in the latest presentments that Bank of North Georgia has not been helpful and has provided “no records.”

Johnston said the county has also requested records from the bank.

“So far, they have declined,” he said.

On the whole, Johnston said he is pleased that the third grand jury, like the previous two, don’t report anything “illegal or unethical” about the transaction between the county and Bobo.

Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens, though, challenges how “practical” some of the grand jury’s 12 recommendations for future deals are.

One of these is the seventh recommendation, which suggests that “before the county enters into any intergovernmental agreement with a private individual or corporation, the county ensure the citizens are properly informed.”

But “An intergovernmental agreement is an agreement among governmental entities,” Ahrens said, “not private individuals or corporations.”

And “How do they define ‘properly inform’,” he asked. “The county followed state guidelines and requirements for public meeting notices, etc. What else do they want us to do to ‘properly inform’?”

“We cannot take the presentments lightly,” he added. “But there seem to be some major gaps, in my humble view, in info that may have led them to their specific findings and recommendations.”

Jimmy Bobo was not available for comment.
Comments
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NoAppraisersNeeded
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April 18, 2013
Note that Mr. Johnston candidly admits the price paid for the Ball Ground Hwy land, yet - as recent history has clearly shown to be their practice - the BOC neglected (along with a litany of other failures of reasonable diligence) to get an appraisal of the RRDA site. An appraisal would have been useful in pre-transaction negotiations (assuming of course that there were any) and would now be highly relevant as evidence of what the tract SHOULD have been worth. County-employed appraisers decide what property taxes I pay, yet appraisals are considered irrelevant when the county is buying. Does that bother you?
NotTheTeaParty
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April 17, 2013
Commissioners: "Properly informing" citizens should have begun in 2007 with telling the truth, which would have been that the proposed project did not involve "solid waste", could NOT have created jobs regardless of the strength of the economy, and was never intended to generate one iota of "public good". Since those are the 3 clear legal guidelines that enable a RRDA to exist, the entire process flew in the face of legal, ethical, transparent government.
Grand Juror # 24
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April 17, 2013
The headline of this article is misleading and indicates a lack of ethical journalism.
Bug Fuzz
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April 17, 2013
Notice to all citizens of Cherokee County: HOME IMPROVEMENT STORES in Cherokee County are all out of WHITE WASH, due to a sudden, unexpected, large order placed by an unnamed Commissioner. Next time, and there will be a next time, we will have elected officials in place that will do more than the least required by law, when a debt of this magnitude is placed on the backs of TAX paying citizens. There are many levels of deception and this fiasco qualifies.
tired of this
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April 18, 2013
If you read the complete jury findings, you will find grand jury suggested no wrong doing and it was time to stop. May not like it but it wasn't illegal. Reporter just reported on what makes headlines, not the complete grand jury finding. Glad I wasn't on that grand jury or I would want to look into the reporters intentions.

Also who elected the commissioner that wants to waste another $300,000.00 ? Not a good use of taxpayers money. Use it to find a renter for Ball

Ground not more money out the door. Will have wasted 3-4 months payments.
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