In an email forwarded to the Cherokee Tribune, Troy Welker confirmed his resignation from the RRDA on Monday. Welker wrote his reasoning for quitting includes changes in his personal and professional commitments, although he has previously complained about emails he received asking him to investigate the previous RRDA’s costly dealings with Ball Ground Recycling.
“My commitment to the board was for one year of service, and that year has passed quickly and my own personal and professional commitments have grown substantially since that time,” Welker wrote in the email, before declining to elaborate further Tuesday. “My business is expanding, and requires much more of my time traveling internationally.”
Welker added his duties on the board of the Anna Crawford Children’s Center also consume some of his time.
The email was sent to officials, residents and the media, in response to an email sent out by resident Steve Marcinko, one of Cherokee County’s most outspoken critics of the RRDA’s 2006 deal to back bond debt to relocate the now-defunct recycling operation. Welker wrote Marcinko seemed to try to suggest he resigned, because of concerns about the recycling business situation and the RRDA.
“Steve Marcinko has indicated that I share the same concerns over the board, and its tasks as he does, however, this needs further clarification,” Welker wrote. “Our concerns align as far as I know only in as far as I believe that the project should never have been done without a thought out business plan for success, and my concerns about the debt that the project has created.”
Welker came on to the RRDA in 2013, along with four other new members to replace the five county commissioners who originally populated the board.
The new members have been considering how best for the county to find someone to take over the operation that left taxpayers holding the bill for $100,000 a month in lease payments on the facility, when its operator, Jimmy Bobo, filed for bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, a law enforcement investigation is underway to see if any criminal activity took place in the county’s dealings with the business.
With Welker now gone from the board, Buzz Ahrens, Cherokee County commission chairman, said likely not much will change.
“In many ways, it doesn’t hurt,” Ahrens said Tuesday. “It means we have four instead of five (members).”
Typically, Ahrens said members of the RRDA serve to help the county consider how to find a new operator for the facility, alongside County Manager Jerry Cooper.
Considering that advisory role, Ahrens said Welker can still be of help to Cherokee County, if he chooses to.
“He’s still a resource that has background and knowledge,” Ahrens said. “He just doesn’t have a vote.”
Ahrens added Welker had told him he was resigning for personal and business reasons, as the retiring RRDA member wrote in his email.
In November, Welker expressed frustration that he received so many emails asking him to investigate the RRDA’s deal with the recycling operation that “I can’t get work done.”
But he said in the email those frustrations weren’t the cause for his resignation.
He did however make reference to the calls for him to investigate the deal between the recycling company and Cherokee County.
“My reason for joining the board was to look forward, and offer guidance for change moving on and never did I agree to focus on the past and participate in any portion of an investigation,” he wrote. “I made it clear to all that I did not have that type of time or inclination.”
Welker has said he was more interested in helping the county find someone to take over the operation and save taxpayers from having to pay the lease installments.
County Commissioner Harry Johnston, an original member of the RRDA, said as far as he knew, the emails Welker and other members of the RRDA had received mostly came from “just one or a handful of people.”
Johnston said Welker’s goal on the RRDA was the intended role of the board at this point.
“What we really need from them now is knowledgeable outside advisers … on how to sell the facility and whether to take a disappointing offer or (wait) for an operator who will pay more,” Johnston said Tuesday. “We want some people who know something about it to be able to give us advice on that.”
Johnston said Welker would have been able to do that.