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.