Cherokee County and the Ball Ground Recycling Fiasco

Over the last couple years there’s been some heated discussions about a recycling facility in Ball Ground, in North Cherokee County. From my understanding, albeit limited, this stems from the purchase of land without a contract, to build a recycling facility that didn’t actually recycle. In addition, there were altered invoices and missing equipment.

In order to purchase the land, Cherokee County took out $18.1 million in bond debt. The company to run the facility then went under and now the good folks of Cherokee are still footing the bill. One that John Konop estimates with interest will reach the $30 million mark. Calculated out this is about $100,000 a month in payments paid by taxpayers, not including cost of legal, audit, county employees, etc.

The County ended up appointing a committee called the Resource Recovery Development Authority to look at all the shenanigans that were involved and make a recommendation. The RRDA members were all under the impression that since they were volunteers, there would not be any legal liability placed on the members personally. This all changed when they made a recommendation to lease the land to another company. Three members, including John Konop, then resigned.

The county attorney publically in the newspaper had “stressed the RRDA members wouldn’t have had any personal liability. Yet on this above proposed transaction current RRDA member Harry Johnston and the county are being sued by Cowart.”

This is where things get interesting. The county has done a forensic audit of the deal that is over 7000 pages long and cost the taxpayers $500,000. This audit revealed that there was little done to ensure any means of protection for Cherokee County.

To add to the mess the County is now being sued by Cowart Mulch Products, the assertion is that in the midst of negotiations, the county was secretly negotiating with Cowart’s competitors.

All of this has come up in relation to the County Commission race between incumbent Councilman Harry Johnston and challenger Steve West. Tuesday will certainly be an enlightening day to see the decision of the people and just what they will put up with from their elected officials.

For more information on the whole saga, the Cherokee Ledger has set up a tab on their website devoted to the issue. This includes all 7000 pages of the audit.


  1. Raleigh says:

    Hey that’s OK Harry according to his political mailer is a CPA with a Bachelors and Master degree in Finance & Accounting PLUS he has 38 years’ experience as an accounting Manager. He got us into this mess surely he can get us out. Yea right. I know who I will NOT be having my taxes figured with next year…..

    For even more entertainment you should read the Cowart Mulch lawsuit. I wonder why Harry and Buzz allowed Cowart access to the property to start getting it ready for production only to tell them “no deal”. Then Buzz and Harry was caught communicating details about the deal to Cowart’s competitors. My my.

    This is getting good… Where’s the popcorn.

  2. Raleigh says:

    Buzz Ahrens said in a half page ad in the Cherokee Tribune today “The truth is The Recycling deal was signed by the Previous Chair before Chairman Ahrens took office.

    I have a copy of that agreement and on the last page it was signed by L B Ahrens on September 1 2007. and NOT Mike Byrd.

    He Lied.

  3. DrGonzo says:

    Wow, one would think after Cobb County’s well publicised recycling center fiasco that other counties would have learned a lesson, escpecially counties that are right next door.

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