Council considers what role it should play
The Fox Theater is closed and its future is, at best, uncertain.
Theater operator Jeff Lockwood closed the theater Monday morning and started removing equipment.
The building itself, which includes apartments and two storefronts, has been in foreclosure.
The Taft City Council met for 90 minutes Tuesday night in a hastily-called special meeting to discuss what role – if any – the city should play in trying to keep the landmark theater from being shut down permanently.
But a potential private buyer cropped up during the meeting with a proposal that could get the theater reopened without a major city commitment.
Josh Tims said he is in communication with an investment group from Southern California that could come up with the money to purchase the entire Fox Theater building complex
The council decided after a lengthy open discussion and quick closed door session, to begin negotiations with Lockwood over the purchase of the lease and equipment, which the city could get for $80,000, City manger Bob Gorson said.
It's only a stopgap measure until next week's regular city council meeting, when the matter will be discussed again.
But the council had to act Tuesday, Gorson said, because Lockwood was already in the process of removing the projection equipment, speakers and other items, and would only stop if someone agreed to purchase them.
After the closed session, the council announced that staff was directed to draft a letter of intent to enter into negotiations with Lockwood ove the purchase of the lease.
Only three councilmen attended Tuesday's meeting – Mayor Randy Miller and councilmen Paul Linder and Dave Noerr. Ron Waldrop was unable to attend and the council will not have a fifth member until next week, when Orchel Krier is expected to be appointed to the council to replace Craig Noble, who resigned.
Noerr said he doesn't think the city should get involved.
The city is doing what it can to continue to keep a qualified staff in very tight fiscal conditions, the chamber of Commerce, too is struggling, and the city should stay out of the theater business, Noerr said.
“We don't have the money or the expertise to operate it and make it happen,” Noerr said.
The fact that the theater is not able to stay open is a tragedy he said, but not the city's fault, he said.
“It's a harsh reality. It's business,” he said.
Linder agreed with Noerr's comments, but, after Tims came into the meeting more than a half hour after it started, said he wanted to find a stopgap solution to give Tims time to work out a deal to get the Fox.
Miller said Wednesday that, while he agrees in principal with Noerr, he wonders if the Fox, given its historical significance and key location in the downtown, shouldn't be an exception.