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Third Grand Jury To Investigate Cherokee Recycling Deal, Land Purchase

Another Cherokee County grand jury has voted to investigate the Ball Ground Recycling deal and the Cherokee Office of Economic Development's purchase of 53 acres owned by BGR's manager Jimmy Bobo.

Another grand jury has chosen to continue investigating a failed recycling facility deal that has the county taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars.

A Cherokee County grand jury earlier this week in its January 2013 presentments voted to continue investigating the Cherokee County Resource Recovery Development Authority's decision to back up to $18 million in bonds in relation to the Ball Ground Recycling project.

It also voted to investigate the Cherokee Office of Economic Development's purchase of 53 acres off Highway 92 at James Dupree Road. 

The land is the future home of the CoED's Cherokee 75 Business Park, which is under construction. 

County Commission Chair Buzz Ahrens noted "this was totally expected."

"The newly seated grand jury had a presentation/review by the former grand jury committee on Monday or Tuesday," he added. 

The grand jury's decision is the third one in less than a year to investigate the company's failure and the circumstances surrounding the RRDA's decision to back the bonds. 

In its previous findings, the grand jury recommended the county commission discipline all county employees responsible for the collapse. It also stated it found no other development authority in the state that had done a similar deal; that the county did not use a free resource offered by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia; and that the county did not carry the assets related to the project on its general ledger.

The commission during its meeting earlier this month approved a resolution in response to the latest grand jury findings. 

In its resolution, the county stipulates that the transaction has been legally upheld as appropriate and that every step of the deal has been documented and that it reported the project's assets "properly."

The county also noted it didn't agree with the grand jury's recommendations to discipline employees as the grand jury did not offer "any specific facts, conduct, actions or omissions of any particular county employees that would warrant disciplinary action."

The county commission in 2006 created the RRDA to back the bonds, which was used to relocate Cherokee Recycling, later renamed Ball Ground Recycling, to land on Highway 5 just south of the Ball Ground city limits.

The agreement stipulated BGR Manager Jimmy 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.

Ball Ground Recycling was dismissed from bankruptcy court as it had no assets and was not able to offer a repayment plan to its creditors.

The dismissal now allows the county to add the company to its civil lawsuit as a defendant.  

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