Storytelling Center poised to emerge from bankruptcy by middle of May

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 20, 2012 at 11:13 PM

GREENEVILLE — With the unanimous consent of its creditors and congratulations from U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Marcia Phillips, the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough was granted the court’s confirmation of its plan for reorganization Tuesday, paving the way for the ISC to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy by mid-May.

The plan includes mandates for the ISC to vacate its iconic building in Jonesborough’s historic district prior to any foreclosure sale scheduled on behalf of the federal office of Rural Development, a three-year schedule for ISC’s repayment of approximately $400,000 in secured and unsecured debt, and the appointment of a new executive administrator to fill the role previously held by Jimmy Neal Smith, the center’s founder and new president emeritus.

“At this point, what we want to do is celebrate what happed today with us receiving confirmation of our plan,” Smith said. We submitted our plan, 100 percent of our creditors approved and the judge confirmed. While we have a lot of work to do, we are pleased with what happened and we are happy with where we are in the process.”

Smith described the 15-month bankruptcy process as long and difficult but said the ISC has made changes in its operations that needed to be made.

“It’s a whole new ball game,” he said. “We will emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy stronger than ever. We have a bright future ahead of us. The Teller in Residence is still here and the festival is scheduled. Although if the building is not usable, we will have to move our Teller in Residence to another place.”

Asked if any negotiations were under way to avoid a foreclosure sale, ISC attorney Mark Dessauer said, “there are negotiations that are ongoing.”

In the meantime, Dessauer noted the reorganization plan calls for the ISC to abandon the $1.3 million storytelling facility after June 1, with a 30-day notice of any foreclosure sale from Rural Development.

The plan allows the ISC 15-18 months to hire a new executive director and Smith said board members have begun those discussions with anticipation of a lengthy process.

The reorganization payment schedule calls for ISC to repay over a three-year period $225,000 of $1.75 to 2 million in unsecured debt it owed to a total of debt to 34 creditors, and to pay about $175,000 in additional priority and secured debt.

The ISC’s original debt included the $1.3 million balance that remained on its $2.6 million obligation to Rural Development after the surrender of the building, and $123,000 owed to Bank of America on the bank’s purchase of a $482,000 bond series issued by Jonesborough’s Industrial Development Board in 2002 to meet cost overruns on the building’s construction.

Meanwhile, the ISC’s daily Teller-in-Residence program is set to open its season at the ISC building on May 1. The program, which begins each day at 2 p.m., will continue Tuesdays through Saturdays through October.

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