By Miriam Raftery
August 12, 2014 (El Cajon)—El Cajon’s City Council will vote at today’s 3 p.m. meeting on directing staff to pursue a draft final agreement with Rock Church for establishing a partial lease of the East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC). The deal would also authorize Rock Church to lease land adjacent to the theater to construct a new building for the church that would be partially available for city use.
The measure is on the consent calendar, however ECM has received several e-mails from community members who are concerned about separation of church state issues and about the long-term loss of the theater for public use during a significant number of hours each year. They want to see any leasing decisions halted until the city follows up on its promises to hire a professional theater management company.
Photo, right: City Manager Doug Williford gave a tour to Save ECPAC members several years ago. Williford and Council members had promised that a professional theater group would be hired and the theater reopened for the city's centennial, but later postponed those actions. The City has delayed the reopening until next year at the earliest and has not yet hired management.
Ray Lutz, who established a Save ECPAC committee that fought to stop the city from selling off ECPAC and has presented alternative plans in the past, urged community members to attend today’s hearing to “express your displeasure at this ridiculous notion. We need to hire a professional manager and not lock up the theater up for ten years for the use by a single tenant.”
The city has claimed that leasing the theater for a substantial block of time to the church would provide a stable funding source to support the theater’s future operations. ECPAC has been closed for several years in need of roofing repairs and other upgrades. The city has previously voted to expend funds for those costs.