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College of the Desert to search for new location for Roadrunner Motors program; Cathedral City calls decision ‘disturbing’

College of the Desert will search for a new location for its Roadrunner Motors program following a fiscal review of the originally planned location in Cathedral City.

COD's Roadrunner Motors program is the school's automotive training center.

In January 2020, the school announced plans to build an automotive and advanced transportation facility featuring a modernized lab and classroom in Cathedral City, adjacent to the Cathedral City Auto Center. The automotive classes taught at COD's main campus in Palm Desert were set to all be moved to the new location.

Despite the pandemic, this still appeared to be the plan as of at least March 2021, as it was announced once again by officials during the State of the College 2021.

On Wednesday, school officials announced that they will evaluate alternative locations for the program after a fiscal review "determined costs at the planned location are exorbitantly higher than previously anticipated."

“I take my responsibility for managing dollars entrusted to us by the community very seriously,” said Superintendent/President Martha Garcia, Ed.D. "It’s important to understand how the decisions we make today can affect us financially five, ten, or even twenty years from now. I am committed to ensuring that we remain responsible with public dollars.”

COD officials say they are committed to identifying possible site alternatives and will provide location recommendations in the coming months.

“We believe strongly in the Roadrunner Motors concept and are confident we will find a solution that furthers the interest of our students,” added Garcia.

The Roadrunner Motors program continues to be held at COD's Palm Desert campus, with additional classes offered at Amistad High School in Indio through the college's dual and concurrent enrollment programming.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

Statement from Mayor Raymond Gregory on College of the Desert Taking Away Roadrunner Motors from Cathedral City Auto Center:

“It is concerning to learn that College of the Desert has unilaterally decided, without any advanced consultation with local officials, staff or the public, to move funding away from the long-planned Roadrunner Motors project, an automotive technology educational center slated to begin construction adjacent to the Cathedral City Auto Center. For several years, the City of Cathedral City worked diligently with the College of the Desert’s board of trustees, administration, faculty, staff, and student leaders to identify a suitable space near the Auto Center where students could learn the latest technology, apply those skills in real-world internships with our automotive businesses, and access public transportation to and from the educational center. Extensive studies and public feedback identified the need for high-quality vocational training in automotive technology and showed a large student base in Cathedral City and the surrounding communities. Once suitable land was selected and agreed to by all, College of the Desert purchased the land, invested in architectural designs for the site, and began preparing the land for construction. Millions of taxpayer dollars have already been spent. All the remaining expenses related to the project were previously identified, and no new costs or cost issues have been shared with the city or the public to this point. The project was continuously included in updates from College of the Desert as moving forward and mentioned just a few days ago in a glowing article in Palm Springs Life as one of the college’s upcoming expansion facilities. The City of Cathedral City thought the project would be breaking ground soon. Instead, what we got was a telephone call Wednesday from the new President/Superintendent Martha Garcia stating that the project is no longer happening as funding is being moved to another undisclosed project.”   

“The most disturbing part of the decision to shelve the new Roadrunner Motors Automotive Technology Center at the Cathedral City Auto Center is not that the project will not move forward, but that so much time, effort, public input, and taxpayer dollars are being wasted just to free up funding for another project in a different community without any input or study as to what that means for those who supported the project and were counting on it. When the local bond passed that was to fund the center, there was a promise that the spending of funds would follow a process, have oversight, and be in the best interest of those students needing the education the facility would provide and those businesses and the public needing the skilled work that was to follow. It seems apparent those promises and that trust have been violated in the raw exercise of political power, outside the prescribed process and without transparency. It is just wrong.”

Jesus Reyes

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