Judge Margaret H. Murphy of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Georgia, signed a consent order, fulfilling a request from the county and the Resource Recovery Development Authority to lift the automatic stay imposed by the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
The motion also orders the company’s owner Jimmy Bobo to turn over keys to the property and any other software and documents relating to operating the business.
Bobo said the stay was lifted through a negotiated agreement between Ball Ground Recycling and the county.
“We will exit the site over the next few days and aid the RRDA in taking over the site,” he said. “We will continue to search for alternate vendors and ways to help the RRDA become whole on the project.”
County Attorney Angela Davis added the county will “continue to seek re-payment of the debt through the bankruptcy process.”
The consent order also terminates the RRDA’s lease agreement with Ball Ground Recycling, which has come under scrutiny from some members in the public.
County Manager Jerry Cooper said the county is still in the process of finding an operator to take over the site.
“We continue to negotiate with prospective companies and are encouraged an agreement will be reached soon,” he said.
Bobo, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, was under a lease agreement with the authority to pay $100,000 a month in bond payments on $18.1 million borrowed by the authority to purchase land and equipment for the operation.
Bobo had made payments for about two years, or about $2 million in payments on the debt.
However, the county was notified last year by the Bank of New York that Bobo was no longer making payments into the escrow account, and the county was obligated to start making the payments.
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 for the purpose of making semi-annual debt service payments.
The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners in February moved $1.8 million out of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds into the general fund to cover the payments on the debt after Bobo failed to make payments owed on the bonds the county had guaranteed.
The county commission created the RRDA in 2006 and approved the bond rate for a maximum of $18.1 million in bonds.
The bonds were used to relocate 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.
The Blalock Road site was used for parks for the county.
The county government owns about 160 acres on Blalock Road in the Toonigh community, 30 of which was being used by the company, which recycles construction debris into landscaping materials, topsoil and mulch.
County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said “getting someone in there to operate (the facility) at the highest level of debt service level that we can achieve” will be a top priority for the county.
He noted that may have be done in incremental steps.
He noted getting the stay lifted can help the county move forward.
“I think it’s a good start to making that happen sooner,” he said, referring to finding another operator.