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County Commission Approves Resolution On Grand Jury Recommendations

The commission will appear before the grand jury on Monday to review the recommendations

 

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution applauding the Cherokee County grand jury's review of a deal that backed an ill-fated business venture. 

The resolution, which was discussed extensively during the commission's work session, was approved unanimously by the commission during its meeting on Tuesday. It also stated it would welcome the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to also look into the commission's decision to issue bonds to move Ball Ground Recycling from property it owned on Blalock Road near Holly Springs to land in Ball Ground.

County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens also noted the commission will meet with the grand jury at 9 a.m. Monday to review the recommendations, which were handed down last month.

The most notable recommendations include calling for a forensic audit into the financial dealings of Ball Ground Recycling; replacing the members of the Resource Recovery Development Authority with non-elected officials; placing on the ballot any future partnership between the county and private entity which would call for issuing bonds; and for the county to exhaust all avenues to recoup money owed to taxpayers in the failed business.

It also recommended the county look into recovering the cost of removing debris from the Blalock Road site. However, Davis said the county doesn't believe it would be prudent to pursue the roughly $700,000 it spent to clean up the site as both the Cherokee Sheriff's Office and Cherokee County district attorney's office dismissed complaints by adjacent property owner Steve Marcinko about illegal dumping of the debris. 

County Attorney Angela Davis said the commission agrees with most of the grand jury's recommendations. She added the county has no intentions to pursue a similar agreement in the future.

Ahrens noted he's asked the county's legislative delegation to introduce a law that would prohibit any county or municipality from entering into a similar agreement, which he said would "protect" governmental entities.

While the commission has stated it will not enter into a similar partnership in the future, Davis also said the commission wouldn't feel comfortable holding a referendum just to get the opinion of the public as the public elects the commission to make decisions similar to this.

While the commission was in agreement with replacing at least a majority of the RRDA with non-elected members, some differed on when the transition should happen.

Commissioner Harry Johnston said he'd favor keeping the number of elected officials at a number in which they would be a minority.

“I think it provides a greater level of credibility," he said, adding any delay on the transition could hurt the chances of the county netting a new operator for the site.

Commissioner Karen Bosch disagreed, adding the rush to move forward “really isn’t fair" to commissioners-elect Ray Gunnin and Brian Poole. Bosch said they also deserve to have a say in who sits on the RRDA.

Commissioner Jason Nelms added he thought the perception of the public would be "better" if the county had unbiased persons on the RRDA.

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.

Davis said an outside inquiry by the GBI or the grand jury, which could include subpoena power, could also allow the county to obtain essential documents they haven't been able to penetrate due to the bankruptcy stay. 

She noted Bobo is slated to undergo a deposition on Sept. 26, which she hopes will benefit the county in getting more information about the company's finances and assets.

In other business, the commission also approved a resolution outlining how it plans to use proceeds if voters approve imposing a Homestead Option Sales Tax. Revenue generated from the tax would be used to reduce the county's M & O portion of property taxes. It would not reduce the fire district or the school tax. 

State law allows up to 20 percent of the proceeds to be used for capital expenses, but the county in the resolution stipulated it would use 100 percent of the proceeds to reduce property taxes as long as there was a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, program in place.

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