The interim presentment was handed up by the grand jury to a Cherokee County judge on Monday and signed on Tuesday by Superior Court Judge N. Jackson Harris.
In making the presentment to the court, the grand jury said that in a vote of eight or more of the members it voted to investigate and inquire into the formation of the development authority and the issuance of bonds.
The grand jury also plans to investigate costs to taxpayers of Cherokee County for clean-up of the former recycling facility on Blalock Road to be used for a youth soccer complex, according to the interim presentment.
The presentment also created a committee of grand jury members to hear evidence in the investigation and report its findings back to the full grand jury.
Members of the committee are John Coleman, Danny Henson, Greg Mosely, Johnny Chastain and Jeff Jackson.
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said late Tuesday the board welcomes the investigation and will cooperate fully with the grand jury.
“We welcome the grand jury’s investigation into this matter, and will provide them whatever assistance they need. I have no doubt that their conclusions will be the same as ours and that of other unbiased parties who have looked at it,’ Ahrens said. “That is, in hindsight, it was unwise to underwrite this or indeed any private facility. It has cost the county money and will probably cost some more. But, it was completely legal, and done with the good intention of moving that grinding facility out of a residential area to a more suitable industrial site with the expectation of consolidation from other sites in Cherokee and Cobb.”
County Commissioner Harry Johnston said he is glad the grand jury is looking into the situation.
“I believe it’s the best way to clear the air on this subject,” Johnston said. “Hopefully this will resolve it once and for all.”
County Attorney Angela Davis said when reached late Tuesday she did not have a comment on the presentment because she has not had a chance to review the presentment.
Other commissioners had not responded to requests for comment by press time.
The county created the RRDA, made up of the five county commissioners, in 2006 and approved the bond rate for a maximum of $18.1 million in bonds.
The bonds were used to relocate Ball Ground Recycling owner Jimmy Bobo’s company from its former location on Blalock Road near Holly Springs to its current site on Highway 5 just south of Ball Ground.
The county guaranteed financing through the issuance of bonds through the authority.
Bobo was under a lease agreement with the authority to pay $100,000 a month in bond payments up to $18.1 million borrowed by the authority to purchase land and equipment for the operation, which the authority owns under the agreement.
The Blalock Road site is now the site of the Badger Creek Soccer Park, which the county owns and is operated by Cherokee Soccer Association under an agreement with the county.
The county government owns about 160 acres on Blalock Road in the Toonigh community, 30 of which were being used by the company under an agreement with the county, which recycles construction debris into landscaping materials, topsoil and mulch.
The acreage is across Blalock Road from the former county landfill, and was the site of the Cherokee Clean and Beautiful recycling facility supported by the county before Bobo took over the operation.
Ball Ground Recycling last month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which came just days before the county planned to force Bobo off the property if he did not pay some of the money owed to Cherokee County for bond payments. The county filed a motion to get relief from the bankruptcy stay on Friday.
The relief would allow the county to proceed with evicting Bobo from the property he leases from the county.
The county learned it would have to assume some of the debt when it was notified last year by the Bank of New York that Bobo had not made payments into the escrow account, and the county was obligated to make the payments.
The commission moved $1.8 million out of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds into the general fund in February to cover the payments on the debt after Bobo failed to make payments owed on the bonds the county had guaranteed.
Money from the general fund was originally used for expenses that were paid by SPLOST funds last year and the move would reimburse those payments back into the general fund, freeing the money up to cover the bond debt payment.
The county had to make $1.2 million in payments last year and still has to pay an additional $608,171.28 this year.
A total of $1.2 million was originally due on a yearly basis, with the county placing $101,000 into an escrow account each month for the purpose of making semi-annual debt service payments.