The school district and 11 x 17 Inc. were the highest bidders in the school's auction, which began Jan. 14 in Dallas. Court documents show that winning bids totaled nearly $2.2 million.
Jacksonville ISD agreed to purchase the Wilson Administration Building, along with the school gymnasium, swimming pool and athletic fields, and Jacksonville-based 11 x 17 agreed to purchase most of the school's academic buildings, the chapel and dormitories, according to a news release.
Purchases are not finalized and must be approved by the United States Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Texas.
“We're pleased it was a successful auction. … It guarantees distribution to unsecured creditors and guarantees payment to former employees,” Attorney Hugh Ray III, who represents the bankruptcy estate, said. “That was money that would have never been available if we hadn't confirmed a plan.”
Dawn Ragan, chief restructuring officer for the bankruptcy estate, added in a news release, “A great deal of work was done with the creditors, employees, prospective buyers and many others, and it's good to see a positive outcome.”
Lon Morris filed for bankruptcy in July after its ongoing financial problems. In August, the college announced it would close. Ray has said that changed the nature of the case, which went from selling an operating facility to instead auctioning its assets as real estate.
He said the auction concluded Friday night, when all the bids were accepted. He said there were in excess of 85 bids put in by about five bidders, and not all bidders were from East Texas or even Texas.
The bids that were finally accepted were the highest bids received, and officials did their best to get bids as high as they could, he said.
Court documents show 11 x 17 Inc. also bid on the rodeo arena, which the city deeded to Lon Morris in 2009.
In addition to Jacksonville ISD and 11 x 17 Inc., a bidder identified as “William Adcock Jr./Stephen Allman” was the highest bidder for rental property and former student housing, according to court documents.
Jacksonville ISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell said the district is excited about the auction because it opens up a lot of opportunity at a good value for taxpayers.
He said JISD has to turn people away from basketball games and moved some games to Lon Morris over the last several years because of space. He said the gym there would give them a place big enough to handle crowds and also hold other events such as convocation.
JISD already was looking at a way to expand its administration space because of personnel settings and record keeping, and it saw the Lon Morris administration building as a great opportunity for taxpayers, Wardell said.
As far as the baseball and softball fields, he said the district doesn't want it for athletic fields but for the land. He said the land is a good site for a future school, possibly a new West Side Elementary School.
“We're not having to borrow money or issue bonds. We were able to attend the auction and get a lot of things for the district,” Wardell said.
“To me that says a whole lot right there. It really does give us a lot of great opportunities.”
He added, “Naturally we would have loved Lon Morris to continue there. It was great for the community, being such a long standing part of the community.”
An attempt to obtain information about the auction from 11x17 was unsuccessful.
The bankruptcy court is scheduled to start reviewing the auction results on Feb. 4.
In the meantime, Ray said he expects many people will file various objections to the college's bankruptcy plan, and bankruptcy estate representatives will attempt to resolve any objections before auction results are reviewed.