Jazz hall organizers say they will pay $60k debt

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Facing possible eviction, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame will finally be able to pay off some $60,000 in back bills the organization has owed for months, executives there said Friday.

The announcement by the 24-year-old Tulsa nonprofit came two days shy of a special meeting set by the county to discuss what to do with the museum, which has struggled to stay afloat after years of questionable budgeting practices and an economic downturn.

After several reprieves from county commissioners to get its finances in order, the jazz hall was given an ultimatum last month: Pay its delinquent assessments and utility bills by the first week of October or face eviction.

"It's thanks to an outpouring of support of new and longtime patrons, and we're very grateful and fortunate and appreciative," said Jason McIntosh, the hall's chief executive officer.

He estimated that nearly 100 donors from across the country came forward to help after learning of the facility's financial troubles, saying: "It takes all kinds; it's just like jazz."

McIntosh would not discuss specifically how much money had been raised, saying late Friday that the jazz hall's board of directors preferred to wait until Monday's meeting.

"We'll meet the obligations required by the county, and we are very appreciative for their patience in working with us," he said.

Given the jazz hall's spotty financial history, at least one county commissioner remained skeptical the debt was taken care of.

"On Monday, we'll figure out whether there's any truth to it," said Karen Keith, one of three commissioners who serve as trustees of the county's industrial authority, which has oversight over the jazz hall. "If they have proof, we'll consider what we do going forward."

Last month, Keith said she wanted the jazz hall to survive because of its importance to the city's cultural history, but "not with its current list of players." It was a stern rebuke of the top management, which recently went through a shakeup.

Commissioner John Smaligo, who had suggested the organization's leaders were taking advantage of the voters who set aside funds for the hall, indicated there would be no hard feelings if the bills get paid.

"If they do, then it's business as usual and we have no problem going forward," Smaligo said in an interview this week.

Financial problems have plagued the organization for years. This spring, a nearly $4,000 check cut by the jazz hall to cover a half-year's insurance on its building bounced.

Its past tax documents are littered with red ink, too. Between Oct. 1, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010, the organization reported revenue of $354,429 and expenses of $449,714 — a deficit topping $95,000. The next fiscal year, the center made only around $31,000.

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