COD Inaugurates $113M Indio Campus Expansion

City of Indio and College of the Desert officials met Monday morning to open the expansion of the community college’s Indio Campus, a 67,000-square-foot building with classrooms, a cafe, offices, science labs and a student service center.

The long-planned campus expansion on Oasis Street in downtown will double the size of the Indio campus built in 2014.

Flyers distributed at the event indicated that the facilities are expected to open in the fall of 2023. COD Superintendent/President Martha Garcia and Board Chair Ruben Perez said the project would be completed in 2024.

A report presented to COD’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee this month shows that the budget for the Indio expansion project is $67.5 million. That figure is in line with earlier budget estimates, according to Andrew Harker, chairman of the Bond Oversight Committee.

COD is also building a 17,000 square foot Children’s Development Center across from campus, where classes are scheduled to begin in fall 2023.

On Monday, college leaders said the cost of downtown Indio projects funded by Measure CC bonds is expected to be $113 million.

However, the college and Harker had different interpretations of how to arrive at this number.

Cindy Alvarez, spokeswoman for the college, which currently does not have a public information officer, said the $113 million reflects the total costs of “active projects” in downtown Indio.

She said that figure includes:

  • $22.1 million budgeted for Child Development Center
  • $13.7 million for Indio campus infrastructure upgrades, modular buildings and renovations listed in the college’s capital projects report in March.
  • $67.5 million for campus expansion.

However, that only totals $103 million. Asked about the discrepancy, Alvarez said she should check with John White, executive director of bond program and facility planning.

According to Harker, the total budget of $113 million reflects the cost of the $67.5 million Indio expansion project, the $22.1 million child development center and the 24 million Indio campus. 1 million dollars built in 2014.

While those numbers add up to about $113 million, Alvarez said Harker’s interpretation was incorrect.

Alvarez wrote in a statement to the media last week, “The approximately $113 million cost of this work and new facilities is being paid for through Measure CC bond funds, approved by voters in 2016.”

The CC measure passed in 2016 with nearly 73% approval from Coachella Valley voters. It issued $577 million in bonds to fund COD capital construction projects such as classroom upgrades and new campus construction.

The original Indio campus opened in 2014, so it’s unclear how the college could have used Measure CC funds to build it.

Voters previously approved another $346.5 million bond measure for COD expansion, Measure B, in 2004.

“When you start adding those numbers up, I don’t know how they come to $113 million,” said Bruce Hoban, spokesperson for Promises Made-Promises Broken, a “self-proclaimed coalition of students and taxpayers from across the country.” east and west of the Coachella Valley. fed up with COD’s leadership failures.”

Alvarez said the expansion project is on track to meet its budget. “So far there have been overall savings on construction bids,” Alvarez said. “This means that there are currently no project cost overruns to report.”

The college has spent $8.7 million on the campus expansion so far, plus nearly $4.3 million on the child development center, according to the project spending report. March bonds.

Place available, but will the students come?

Martha Garcia, Superintendent/President of Desert College, speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the campus expansion of Desert College Indio on Monday, March 14, 2022.

Garcia said the new space will accommodate an additional 5,000 students, and she said the college has begun working on a plan to enroll at least that many East Valley students by 2024.

The college has about 10,000 total students enrolled in spring classes.

The Desert Sun reported last fall that the college experienced a 16% drop in enrollment between fall 2019 and fall 2021.

Indio Mayor Waymond Fermon speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion of the College of the Desert Indio campus on Monday, March 14, 2022.

Indio Mayor Waymond Fermon said the college expansion will help revitalize downtown Indio and provide space for more students to walk to class.

“We are changing the trajectory of generations in our community that stands here today,” Fermon said. “Kids sitting in high school classrooms right now, maybe in Indio, Shadow Hills, Coachella Valley High School, Desert Mirage, Amistad, Horizon, will be able to come in and have a full unit load in the city of ‘Indio at College of the Desert, tuition-free.’

Martha Garcia, Superintendent/President of Desert College, speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the campus expansion of Desert College Indio on Monday, March 14, 2022.

As the Indio project moves forward, questions linger

As the Indio campus expansion progresses, questions remain over the fate of other capital projects, including a planned automotive training facility for Cathedral City and a $350 million campus in the River Valley. west to Palm Springs.

Garcia said she needed to see a feasibility study before she could recommend exactly how the Palm Springs campus should move forward.

On Monday, Alvarez, the college spokesperson, told the Desert Sun that it was “unknown” whether a feasibility study had been conducted for the Indio campus expansion.

A malware attack in 2020 temporarily crippled the college’s information systems and resulted in permanent data loss. Alvarez said, “Staff reports that data was lost in the cyberattack.”

Alvarez said the Indio expansion project could go ahead without additional needs assessment — part of a feasibility study — because the project had already been submitted to the State Architect’s Division. in February 2021 and approved by that agency later that year. February 2021 was months after the malware attack.

“Staff reports that data on the need for (the) Indio campus was compiled by then-vice president of instruction, Dr. Anabelle Nery,” Alvarez said.

At Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony, Garcia thanked voters for approving the CC measure.

“I’m grateful to the city of Indio and everyone who supported this project – the voters who approved the requirement and are obviously paying to make this a reality,” she said. “(I am) so grateful (and) privileged to serve you. I am at your service, and thank you, again.”

Garcia, appointed in the summer of 2021, blocked plans last fall for a planned $20-30 million automotive education center in Cathedral City, citing cost overruns.

Construction is halted on vacant land planned for a College of the Desert Automotive Center near the 111 Freeway and Perez Road in Cathedral City, Calif., Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

Garcia said the Automotive Education Center and campus in Palm Springs would be built. However, she did not say whether the automotive center would end up in Cathedral City or at a site near Indio, or whether the Palm Springs campus would be built on the same scale envisioned by her predecessor, Joel Kinnamon, who led the college through the Measure CC campaign and retreat last spring.

In February, Cathedral City Mayor Ernesto Gutierrez and Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton joined a Zoom call with 150 Coachella Valley residents to voice concerns about the management and reporting of COD bonds.

“The COD has historically unprecedented public support,” Middleton said at the meeting. “This broad public support is at risk.”

The call was organized by Promises Made-Promises Broken. Hoban, a Palm Springs resident, led the February Zoom call. Hoban did not say who else is involved in the band’s leadership and who funded the band’s website and digital and print media campaigns targeting COD’s leadership.

Desert College superintendent/president Martha Garcia (left) poses with trustees Bonnie Stefan, Bea Gonzalez, student trustee Ireland Olson, Aurora Wilson and Ruben Perez in Indio, Calif., Monday, March 14, 2022.

A political ad promoted on social media in January by Promises Made-Promises Broken showed money being flushed down the toilet and called on Garcia and three of the college’s five administrators to quit: Perez, Aurora Wilson and Bea Gonzalez.

All three of them voted to appoint Garcia in 2021, unlike directors Bonnie Stefan and Fred Jandt. Jandt was unable to attend Monday’s ceremony due to a medical appointment.

Stefan, a trustee since 1999, said Monday, “It’s my long-term dream to see a campus like this in every community.”

Perez made a point of alluding to the Promises Made-Promises Broken ad in his opening remarks on Monday.

“Campuses are not canceled,” he said. “Money is not flushed down the toilet. We are here to educate students.”

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

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