A Cherokee County marshal has been posted for about two weeks at the entrance of the sprawling plant, which the county has been trying to sell off as taxpayers pay the bill for $100,000 a month in bond payments.
Cooper did not elaborate on the need for the officer, other than to say one was there temporarily “for security and monitoring.”
The county is in the process of moving employees from its roads and bridges department to the site, as was also done last year, “to ensure continued monitoring,” Cooper added Tuesday.
While officials say there was no one reason for the marshal, the Highway 5 facility formerly run by Jimmy Bobo has seen more activity and interest recently, as the county tries to sell it off. Cherokee County is trying to find someone to take it over after the operator went out of business in 2012.
In recent weeks, employees from Cowart Mulch, a company that tried to buy the plant in February in a $4.2 million lease purchase, had been coming onto the site while the county considered the agreement. Cowart Mulch’s offer was turned down by commissioners in earlier this month.
A collections company has also been sending letters to the county, saying it wanted to repossess some equipment Bobo used as collateral for loans through the Bank of North Georgia. But officials say the fact there is equipment Bobo’s various businesses had pledged for loans is nothing new and the letters were not a cause for the increased security.
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said there had been a report of someone trying to steal electricity from the plant, but the report turned out to be false.
According to County Attorney Angela Davis, Cowart Mulch left behind some equipment at the facility after the deal fell through and may need to come pick it up. With more people coming and going, she said the increased security would ensure that only those with business at the plant, such as Cowart Mulch employees, could get in.
“No reason to think anybody’s doing anything wrong,” Davis said Wednesday. “But having someone there who otherwise works for us is just an easy thing to do.”
When asked, the county manager was clear the marshal’s presence had “nothing to do” with Crimson Portfolio, the group claiming it has the right to repossess some equipment from the Ball Ground facility.
Frank W. DeBorde, an Atlanta attorney representing that company, sent Cherokee County a letter Feb. 27, asking the county to let employees of the company come onto the site to evaluate and remove some equipment. That letter didn’t specifically say which of the many pieces of machinery on the vast site Crimson Portfolio had rights to.
DeBorde sent another letter March 6 giving a list of items Bobo’s various companies used as collateral for loans through the Bank of North Georgia, which turned those debts over to Crimson for collections.
The county attorney said she was communicating with Crimson’s attorney and going through the list to verify what equipment the company could have rights to repossess. Davis said she is also making sure none of those pieces of equipment had been paid for with bond funds from the Cherokee Resource Recovery Development Authority.
Davis said, so far, “I have no reason to believe” Bobo used county-owned property as collateral for loans.
The RRDA was created in 2006 to guarantee $18.1 million in bond debt to fund the relocation of Bobo’s facility to the Highway 5 site from county-owned property on Blalock Road.
The letters from Crimson have led to questions among some residents about whether or not any equipment paid for by RRDA bonds had been used as collateral for loans taken out by Bobo, which could give debt collectors an interest in equipment on the site. The equipment at Ball Ground Recycling is seen as a key factor in how much money Cherokee County can get for the facility in a sale.
Davis said the county has known all along there were pieces of machinery at the plant that debt collectors may want to claim, but that equipment was not purchased with RRDA funds, although she is verifying once again to make sure.
“Everyone is asking like this is something to be alarmed about,” she said. “It’s nothing new. It’s not equipment that’s owned by the RRDA or bond funding. Now, we’re confirming that. We’re going through the process of painstakingly making sure that everything matches up.”
Davis said Bobo’s agreements with the county allowed him to bring equipment he owned before the RRDA deal onto the site.
“Which only made sense,” she said. “Jimmy Bobo had been doing this kind of business for many, many years. So he had equipment. We all knew … he would be bringing his personal equipment on the site.”
Davis clarified that several pieces of equipment on Crimson’s list were purchased by Bobo’s other companies well before the county struck its deal in 2006 to guarantee the $18.1 million in bond debt.
In an email responding to residents Monday, the commission chairman said the county has known for some time about equipment on the Ball Ground site that wasn’t the county’s.
“There were certain capital items that were purchased with non-bond monies … specifically, a coloring machine (and apparatus) and a packaging line (and apparatus),” Ahrens wrote in the email Monday. “We have known this, so (it) is not new information.”