The residents spoke in opposition against a move by the county in February to transfer $1.8 million out of Special Purpose Local Option Sales funds into the county’s general fund after Cherokee Recycling owner Jimmy Bobo failed to make payments owed on $18 million in bonds the county had guaranteed.
Money from the general fund was used for expenses that were covered by SPLOST last year and the move would reimburse those payments back into the general fund, freeing the monies up to cover the bond debt payment.
The bonds were originally issued to fund the move of Cherokee Recycling to its new site on Highway 5 just south of Ball Ground from land the county owned on Blalock Road where the private mulch company was then operating.
The Blalock Road site was used for parks for the county.
Carolyn Cosby, chair of the Review and Recommendations Committee to Assist County Government, said the committee is calling for a full investigation with regards to the county’s agreement with Bobo.
Cosby, who lives just outside of Ball Ground, filed an open records request to obtain copies of contracts, memorandums, emails and commission meeting minutes in relation to the county’s deal with Bobo.
During the meeting, Cosby pointed out that “Bobo Boondoggle” would be a high-risk venture even in a good economy” and noted “green businesses” do not have a track record of success.
She also said the “boondoggle” is further proof that “governments are not equipped to run businesses.”
“The county taxpayers deserve a full accounting,” she said, adding a request for the county to waive possibly several hundred dollars in fees related to its open records request that she would have to pay.
The county created the Resource Recovery Development Authority in 2007 and approved the bond rate for a maximum of $18.1 million in bonds.
The authority originally approved the plan for the purpose to create jobs and economic development in the county.
The county was notified last year by the Bank of New York that Bobo had not made payments into the escrow account, and County Manager Jerry Cooper said the county was obligated to make the payments. The transfer will fund the RRDA’s debt service payments until June.
The county had to make $1.2 million in payments last year and still has to pay an additional $608,171.28 this year.
The county manager noted the county guaranteed financing through the issuance of bonds through the authority.
A total of $1.2 million was originally due on a yearly basis, with the county making placing $101,000 into an escrow account for the purpose of making semi-annual debt service payments,
Committee member Bill McNiff noted at Tuesday’s meeting the county “should really be ashamed of yourselves to let this happen.”
Marcus Beavers agreed, adding the public-private partnership the county entered into seems to parallel the “waste” from the county’s parks bond program.
Debbie Staver said she thought there was a disconnect between the county government and what its residents are facing.
She said many of the taxpayers have to work, often well past the retirement age, to keep up with the “confiscation of our dollars” by the government.
Calling the partnership a “huge embarrassment,” Staver asked the county to “stop spending now so you can stop confiscating my money.”
County Commissioner Harry Johnston said the county had to make the bond payments because it backed the bonds and he said there’s a “distinct possibility” it might have to make another payment.
However, Johnston noted the business is “looking better.”
County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said though he was appreciative of the residents voicing their concerns to them, this issue had been discussed and debated by the county since 2005.
“If the economy hadn’t tanked, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said.
Ahrens said the county is interested in working on a solution and not rewriting history.
“We want to turn around a serious problem and find solutions and not rewrite history,” he said. “If you give us the opportunity, we won’t let you down.”