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City Manager's Message - March 2020

Dear Indio Neighbors,

I feel like I should begin this newsletter column with an update on the worldwide response to the Coronavirus outbreak and how it affects a local government like ours. I believe, however, that by the time this newsletter is transmitted, the information I would give will already be outdated. Research and emergency response professionals worldwide are obviously working around the clock to develop strategies and updates are readily available from the Riverside County Public Health Department and others.

I do want to assure the public that within our region, there is very close, daily coordination among Emergency Management, Public Health and Public Information specialists. While the Coronavirus is a relatively new medical challenge, the health organizations that address infectious disease outbreaks are not new to the task. There are very well-established protocols that these highly capable professionals follow in organizing the response. There is very close coordination among local, county, regional, state and federal officials. They receive input from such entities as the CDC, FDA, WHO and medical research entities worldwide. We, and other Coachella Valley cities, get asked about large special events planned this time of year in the Desert. Absolutely we take these issues seriously. But the upcoming music festivals are still five full weeks in the future. These professionals will provide guidance and advice about such events as the research continues and as the calendar requires. Much, much more information will be reported as this situation evolves. We can all help by doing our best to follow the advice of public health officials concerning our personal sanitary practices.

So given that I would like to talk about something other than medical scares and election news, I think I will resort to some one-liners:

How about that boy’s basketball team at Shadow Hills High School? A remarkable season and a CIF title! Our schools produce excellence in so many ways. They are truly one of biggest strengths as a region.

The City Council on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 adopted an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) with a group called PSDG Indio, LLC, for possible development of projects in the core of our Downtown (basically the City-owned property on the City Hall block and the lawn area to the west). We have been working toward this possible development for the last couple years, and it is still dependent on a more detailed determination of economic feasibility. However, I think two things are clear. There is growing interest in investment in our Downtown, and the City has made this possible by assembling land and preparing plans necessary to attract that investment. More to report on this in the next few months, and more details on our website. Specifically, we are hoping to attract mixed use urban style multi-story apartments, with ground-floor commercial activity, food and entertainment businesses, and hotel/conference center development. It is a big lift, but the PSDG Indio group has very experienced development investors who are seriously exploring the potential.

And there is much more potential in our Downtown, as I have said in previous columns. The College of the Desert Indio campus has enrollment of 6,000 this Spring, and they will break ground on two more buildings by this time next year. We look forward to having 10,000 COD students coming and going from Downtown within a few years. And the Larson Justice Center projects will hopefully be completed soon, bringing hundreds of new jobs to our Downtown.

As reported previously, the City has entered into an ENA with David Schuman to develop mixed use apartments on City-owned land on Oasis. Mr. Schuman is making great progress in his planning. We look forward to signing a formal Development Agreement with him before long. He has a very exciting concept.

Mark Scott, City Manager