Council okays theater flood damage reimbursement; eyes new location

Lawton_The Lawton Community Theater's stage has been ruined by floodwaters, and Tuesday, they asked the city for help in paying for nearly $25,000 dollars in damage. Those floods happened on March 29th, and then again May 7th. Since the theater is housed in a city-owned building, they are turning to city council for reimbursement.

Many council members agreed that the theater deserves to have some, if not all, of that reimbursement, but one problem is that they don't want to pay for these repairs if it is just going to flood again. So now they are thinking of moving the theater.

Even though this spring's rainfall has been out of the ordinary, L.C.T. President Tom Sutherlin says their flooding problems are not.

"We're concerned about long-term problems,"Sutherlin said. "We ain't seen the worst yet."

The theater is constantly flooding and now the stage is ruined, so they're having a hard time recovering. L.C.T. has paid almost $25,000 in repairs and renovations, and now they need the city's help.

"If we make all these repairs and do all this now, are we just going to have to do this again?" City Council Member Janice Drewry asked. "I mean, if it's not caused by the flooding, what is it? I don't know, I just have a problem spending that kind of money and then having to do it again in a month."

And many other council members agreed -- even if they reimburse the money, the building is still in a floodplain. So now they are considering abandoning the site altogether.

"I think if we're going to do something," Council Member Randy Warren said, "we need to find some land that the city owns, that we can use to do a community build project and build a community theater."

That comment was met with a round of applause from the audience. Sutherlin agrees this idea is the best solution, so city council isn't revisiting this problem.

"We are considering what we are going to need to do long term," Sutherlin said. "We could not afford to have a major flood like the city saw in '82 or '89. So we're going to have to take a hard look at relocating and having a new building project."

The city unanimously agreed to fund that reimbursement from their contingency fund, and then they will pay it back with the Hotel-Motel fund, which is used for economic development and tourism. But city council delayed that payment for another 30 days in order to create a new contract with L.C.T.

Some of the new locations city council is considering for L.C.T. are the theater at the original Lawton High School and McMahon Auditorium.