ISC proposal would give up storytelling center

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 3, 2012 at 11:39 PM

GREENEVILLE — The International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough has filed a proposed plan of reorganization for emergence from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy that includes its surrender of its iconic building on Main Street, continuation of its annual storytelling festival and year-round Teller in Residence programs, and reappoint Jimmy Neil Smith as ISC president emeritus with consulting, development and marketing duties and no input into the center’s financial management.

The plan also includes proposals for ISC’s repayment of approximately $155,000 in priority and secured debts owed for taxes and professional services to be made over a five-year period and a total repayment of $225,000 on $1.75 million to $2 million in unsecured debt owed to a total of 34 creditors to be made over a three-year period.

According to the plan, the unsecured debt includes the $1.311 million balance on ISC’s $2.6 million debt to Rural Development after the surrender of its building, and $123,000 owed to Bank of America on the bank’s purchase of $482,000 in a bond series issued by Jonesborough’s Industrial Development Board for the ISC building in 2002. An additional $5.7 million claim filed against ISC in April by the National Storytelling Network was dismissed by the bankruptcy court on Dec. 15 after NSN failed to respond to ISC’s motion for the claim’s dismissal.

The reorganization plan and a financial disclosure statement that sets out its proposed terms of repayment was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Dec. 29 and amended on Dec. 30, one day before ISC’s court mandated Dec. 31 filing deadline.

Both documents are available for review by ISC creditors who, according to the plan, should file objections prior to a confirmation hearing to be conducted by bankruptcy court or within 30 days after the plan’s confirmation by the court. Only creditors whose claims are modified by the plan in either principal owed, interest or length of time of repayment, including Rural Development, Washington County, the town of Jonesborough, the Tennessee Department of Revenue, Bank of America and other unsecured creditors, will be allowed to vote whether to accept or reject the plan. A hearing date for the plan’s confirmation had not been scheduled on Tuesday.

According to the plan, an “unofficial agreement” between ISC and Rural Development that has allowed ISC to continue to occupy the building in exchange for its payment of maintenance costs, utilities, taxes and insurance, will continue through June 30 at which time ISC will vacate the building. If Rural Development objects to ISC’s continued occupancy or requests an extended period of occupancy by ISC, the plan states ISC will negotiate a mutually agreeable date to vacate or continue to occupy the building.

Following its surrender of the building, the plan calls for ISC to operate from its offices in the neighboring Chester Inn and to focus exclusively on the production of its annual storytelling festival and its year-round Teller in Residence program.

Until the plan’s confirmation, ISC’s financial management will remain under the control of a three-member financial committee appointed to administer ISC’s business upon its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Dec. 31, 2010. Within 12 to 18 months of the plan’s confirmation, the board will hire a new chief operating officer to replace Smith who resigned from the position on Jan. 1, 2011, and who will assume a new role as ISC president emeritus. Smith will be responsible for ISC “development and marketing and the delivery of new programs, products and services to advance the ISC and the art of storytelling.”

Until the new CEO is hired, the ISC governing board will provide financial oversight for ISC operations with “day-to-day management and implementation” by ISC Financial Director Susan Reaves and Programs Director Susan O’Connor. Smith will continue to assist the board in functions related to the bankruptcy proceedings and “transition activities” following its emergence from bankruptcy.

According to the plan, “instead of focussing on general operations,” the new management structure will allow Smith, who in 1972 founded the organization that later became the ISC and the NSN, “to devote all of his professional time and skills to expanding ISC’s role locally, nationally and internationally in the performance, preservation and application of storytelling,” to expand ISC’s services and “to generate new and expanded revenues for ISC’s future financial sustainability.”

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