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Cathedral City to Host Rally Saturday to Save COD Auto Center

The Cathedral City municipal government is inviting residents to a rally downtown Saturday to pressure College of the Desert officials to build a long-planned automotive training facility within city limits.

“Normally the city wouldn’t take a rally stance, you know, we don’t go out and do that kind of stuff,” council member Nancy Ross told the Desert Sun. “But it’s unique.”

Saturday’s “Build It Here” rally will take place on the Cathedral City Festival lawn at 68-600 Avenida Lalo Guerrero, next to the Civic Center, starting at 9 a.m.

“This is an opportunity for the public to provide input that has been lacking in COD’s decision-making process,” according to a Facebook post on the city government’s official account. “Our students deserve equal access to higher education and the well-paying jobs they can get after they complete their education at Roadrunner Motors.”

In October, COD Superintendent/Chair Martha Garcia said the college would suspend its plan to develop the Roadrunner Motors facility off East Palm Canyon and Margot Murphy Way in Cathedral City.

Garcia said an initial financial analysis suggested that completing the installation at this site would result in the completion of the project more than $13 million over budget, a 67% increase over the company’s estimates. initial costs.

Then-Cathedral City Mayor Raymond Gregory said in a statement at the time that the decision to cancel the project was made unilaterally by the college without any prior consultation with local officials, staff or the public, and promises to spend local bond money in Cathedral City. had been broken.

“It seems obvious that those promises and that trust have been violated in the crude exercise of political power, outside of prescribed process and without transparency. That is simply not true,” Gregory said.

In January, the college clarified that $3 million of projected cost overruns had already been approved by the board for the purchase of the land off East Palm Canyon.

In February, Cathedral City Mayor Ernesto Gutierrez joined a Zoom call with Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton and 150 Coachella Valley residents to raise concerns about the college’s management of construction projects.

“We will continue to work hard to hold (the) Desert College Board of Trustees and its President accountable to their promises to our constituents,” Gutierrez said.

The call was organized by Promises Made-Promises Broken, a self-proclaimed watchdog group that has launched campaigns in print and digital media calling on Garcia and the directors who voted for her to step down. The group’s spokesman, Palm Springs resident Bruce Hoban, did not say who else is involved and who is funding the political ads.

A few weeks later, Cathedral City the city council has agreed to issue an invitation to Garcia to speak at an upcoming board meeting or special meeting, but the two sides have yet to agree on a time to meet in public.

COD Chairman of the Board Ruben Perez said the board will convene a special public meeting on Wednesday, April 6 to discuss the future of the Roadrunner Motors site. A college spokesperson confirmed that the meeting will begin at 3:30 p.m. However, the college has yet to officially announce the meeting and the meeting agenda has not been posted online.

Garcia and Perez met privately Wednesday afternoon with Gutierrez and City Manager Charlie McClendon to discuss options for the project, Perez confirmed to The Desert Sun.

“(There is) no real update yet, but the meeting was productive and we are still working together in good faith,” Perez said after the meeting. “We will meet again after April 6 and before April 22. I have asked to be part of the rally and to speak.” The next regular meeting of the COD Board of Directors will take place on April 22.

McClendon said after the meeting: “We’ve shared a lot of information which has helped us understand, I think, a little bit better each other’s positions, and we’re all committed to working together, and I think we’ll get there. “

McClendon added that COD officials told him and Gutierrez that a decision regarding the Roadrunner Motors campus would not be made. at the special April 6 board meeting, and it’s more likely to be done on April 22.

“The board is considering three sites,” Perez said. “The original site, an alternate site in Cathedral City, and a site in Indio by I-10 Auto Mall.”

“We are talking about political responsibility”

The Roadrunner Motors project is one of several projects funded by Measure CC, a $577 million bond measure approved by Coachella Valley voters in 2016 for college capital construction projects.

Garcia also called for a reassessment of plans for a $345 million campus in Palm Springs. Construction on this campus is on hold until at least June. In the meantime, the college has construction process on a $67.5 million Indio campus expansion and a $22.1 Indio Child Development Center.

Some administrators support the redistribution of bond money to the towns of the valley.

“Since I’ve been on the board, I’ve always advocated for the bond money to be used a little more equitably across the district,” Perez said after the board’s meeting. March 18.

During that meeting, administrator Bea Gonzalez described the college’s bond funds as “a great opportunity for economic development.”

“I’m sure every city here that’s been promised a campus would like to see some of the bond money used to revitalize some of their downtowns,” she said. “And talking to the mayor of Cathedral City a bit, he mentioned that as well. To like [their downtown] needs a facelift. So, you know, I want us to be aware of how we spread that love? … I’m sure everyone would love to use the bond money to revitalize their downtowns.

Gonzalez declined a request from The Desert Sun to clarify his statements.

Although Gonzalez mentioned investing in Cathedral City in particular, Ross told the Desert Sun that she was concerned about what she heard.

“We’re trying to spread the love — okay, first of all, I don’t even know what that means,” Ross said. “Because we’re not talking about love. We’re talking about accountability, political accountability, among the leaders of our valley, which includes Cathedral City.”

This is a developing story; check back later for more details.

Jonathan Horwitz covers education for The Desert Sun. Contact him at [email protected] or @Writes_Jonathan.