The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners has taken another step in gathering more details in Ball Ground Recycling's finances.
The commission during its meeting on Tuesday voted to direct County Manager Jerry Cooper to draft a request for qualifications for firms to perform a forensic audit into the financial records of Ball Ground Recycling. Cooper said the RFQ would be completed by no later than the middle of next week.
Commissioners did admit the cost to conduct a forensic audit would be well over $20,000, but Commissioner Harry Johnston noted the cost was a "relatively small" amount compared to the minimum of $1.8 million owed to the county.
"It seems like it’s worth it taking the risk,” he said.
The forensic audit was one of 13 recommendations handed down by an interim Cherokee County grand jury, which launched an investigation into the county's deal with Ball Ground Recycling.
The commission also tabled indefinitely requesting the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into Ball Ground Recycling. The GBI, the commissioners stated, would likely state they do not have enough information to launch an investigation without the results of an audit.
Commissioners also voted to begin the process of transitioning the Resource Recovery Development Authority to have a majority non-elected officials serving on the board.
The commission plans to recruit three members, all of which would preferably have a business or economic development background, to initially serve as advisory members. Those members would officially be appointed as members on Jan. 1 or when the county has a new lease agreement in place for a new operator on the site.
Commissioner Jim Hubbard urged both Ahrens and Johnston to remain on the board. He noted Ahrens has done extensive research on the history of the deal and added Johnston was the only commissioner who was on the RRDA when the original plan was struck.
“He’s followed this from day one," he said, referring to Johnston.
Johnston said that would mean three existing members of the RRDA, made up of the five county commissioners, would have to come off the board. The terms of two county commissioners--Karen Bosch and Jim Hubbard--will expire at the end of the year and Johnston said Commissioner Jason Nelms most likely will be the third commissioner to step down from the RRDA.
One member of the audience, Tom Ware of Macedonia, opposed a majority-citizen board. Ware make his feelings known during the public comment portion of the meeting and said the RRDA should consist of four commission members and also include three citizens appointed to the board.
The commission in 2006 created the Resource Recovery Development Authority and backed up to $18 million in bonds, which were used to relocate the former Cherokee Recycling to land along Highway 5 just south of Ball Ground.
The agreement stipulated Bobo was to make payments of the bond into an escrow account, but the county learned last year Bobo hadn't been making the payments. That forced the county to pick up the tab, which it will still be responsible for if it does not find a new operator for the site.
Ball Ground Recycling in late May filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the company was subsequently forced to remove itself from the property. The county, along with the RRDA, have been in bankruptcy court trying to remove the automatic stay imposed by the bankruptcy filing.
Along with the 13 recommendations, the grand jury also compelled the county to recoup money from Bobo after it had to step in and make payments on the bond.
The commission also:
- heard an update during its work session on the aquatic center under construction on Gresham Mill Parkway near Holly Springs; the project is on schedule and could open by the end of May 2013.
- approved setting a public hearing date of Oct. 16 to take public comments on its proposed fiscal year 2013 budget. The public hearing will start at 6 p.m. at the county administration building. The budget will be advertised for public hearing on Sunday in the Cherokee Tribune and a copy of the budget will be available on the county's website on Oct. 10. The commission will consider approving the budget during its Nov. 6 meeting.