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Is buying the Storytelling building a good deal for Jonesborough?

Staff Report • Jul 16, 2012 at 11:13 AM

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted last week to approve an agreement with the USDA Office of Rural Development for the town to purchase the International Storytelling Center building. The town plans to lease the building back to the nonprofit ISC for an amount sufficient to cover the debt it will owe the Office of Rural Development to buy the building.

As Press staff writer Sue Guinn Legg reported July 10, aldermen have agreed to pay $1 million to purchase the building. Town officials plan to add the cost of the building to the town’s application for Rural Development funding to construct a new seniors’ center.

Jonesborough officials then plan to lease the building back to its current occupant — the ISC, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month — for $45,000 annually.

Alderman Chuck Vest, who made the motion to approve the purchase, and Mary Gearhart, who seconded the motion, both initially had concerns about the agreement.

Gearhart said while she felt “the town had suffered an international black eye” as a result of the ISC’s financial troubles, she found the terms of the agreement (which include $90,000 in “up front” money from the ISC to be held in escrow to cover two years’ worth of lease payments in case the organization can’t meet its obligations) to be most appealing.

Vest said he changed his mind because “some deals are just too good to pass up.”

The agreement calls for Rural Development to loan the town the $1 million to purchase the building from ISC and to accept the $1 million ISC receives as full satisfaction of the $1.3 million lien Rural Development holds on the building as a result of ISC’s default on Rural Development construction loans.

Mayor Kelly Wolfe, who helped to engineer the deal, said the agreement will allow the town to accomplish its goals of establishing visitors center services in the downtown area and expanding space for town programming.

We want to know what you think. Is buying the International Storytelling Center building really a good deal for the town of Jonesborough?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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