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Smith: ISC building likely to go into foreclosure

Founder and President of the International Storytelling Center Jimmy Neil Smith told the Herald & Tribune late last week that Rural Development has agreed to one of several proposals the ISC submitted to get the organization back on its feet after filing for bankruptcy last December.
The plan accepted by Rural Development, which holds the loan on the ISC building, is one that does not include the organization’s facility located in the heart of Jonesborough’s historic district.
“The one thing we would seek to do by filing the plan without the center facility is to ensure that we can emerge from Chapter 11 with our organization intact and our 40-year-old festival alive and well,” Smith said. “Those are the two things that are the most important to us.”
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court set the value of the ISC building and property at $1.3 million during an Oct. 4 hearing, an amount equal to the appraisal received by USDA-Rural Development.
The $1.3 million represents the secured claim that must be paid with interest, and is only a portion of the total $2.63 million ISC owes RD for six outstanding loans.
But for now, even though the future ownership of the building remains uncertain, Storytelling will remain in its home on Main Street, Smith said.
“Rural Development will allow us to stay in and operate from the building up until the time of the foreclosure sale,” Smith said.
Despite appearances, Smith said the ISC is not giving up on owning the building.
“We’re not abandoning the building, quite the contrary,” he said. “After we have a secure plan approved, our capacity to acquire the building will be improved.”
Smith called retention of the structure “critical” to the ISC, noting that keeping the building in ISC’s hands is “extremely important — to us, to Jonesborough, the county and to the entire country.”
“Because of that,” Smith said, “we’re focusing our energy, our time and our money on trying to secure long-term ownership.”
While Smith acknowledges there are no guarantees, he expects the ISC to come out with the building in a foreclosure sale situation.
“We are 110 percent committed to securing continued ownership of the building,” he said.
Smith outlined the ISC’s work schedule over the next several weeks and months.
“We will submit our plan for reorganization in December,” he said. “The court will review it and it will have to go through several processes, including the approval of our creditors. It will more than likely not be confirmed by the court until early spring. It takes quite a while for the process.”
Meanwhile, the ISC will continue with its programming and festival plans as usual.
“We are operating in the year 2012 on the premise that we will be confirmed by the court, emerge from Chapter 11 and be successful in retaining the ownership of the facility,” Smith said. “We have faith this is all going to come together.”