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County agrees to stay out of storytelling issue

The Town of Jonesborough has requested Washington County’s official endorsement of the continued use of the International Storytelling Center facility for storytelling and tourism purposes.
According to the resolution presented during the Nov. 16 Budget Committee meeting, town officials are asking commissioners to strongly support “the continued use of the International Storytelling Center’s Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall for storytelling activities and events in Jonesborough, and its continued use as the focal point of programs that enhance tourism and economic development and that continue to support jobs and produce revenues in Washington County.”
In addition, commissioners are asked to strongly advocate and encourage the Town of Jonesborough and the ISC to secure the building in order to support current Storytelling activities.
“I think everyone knows the county has an ongoing investment across the street,” Mayor Dan Eldridge said.
Commissioner Joe Grandy made a motion to recommend the commission endorse the resolution. Commissioner Mark Larkey seconded.
The motion received unanimous approval, with Commissioner Pat Wolfe abstaining due to possible conflict of interest as the father of Jonesborough’s mayor.
Eldridge said he was recently asked if a foreclosure sale eliminates the county’s commitment to the building in the form of a 15-year agreement to give $50,000 annually to the ISC.
“It does not,” Eldridge said. “We still have four more payments of $50,000.”
Town Mayor Kelly Wolfe said he appreciates the fact that the county is being cooperative.
“Jonesborough’s identity is storytelling, and it is our intent to take every strategic stance to ensure the building is used for its current purpose,” he said.
The goal, according to Kelly Wolfe, is for the ISC to negotiate with USDA-Rural Development on a purchase price that is mutually acceptable and avoid going to auction.
“If that does not happen, ISC has one to two people willing to invest,” Kelly Wolfe said. “The town also would be close by as a very interested party to ultimately not let the building fall into someone else’s hands.”
Though the resolution was submitted to the Budget Committee for possible recommendation for the full commission, no request for financial support is included.
“This was one of the few (committees) yet to meet, and we wanted to get on record that the county is not an interested buyer,” Kelly Wolfe said.