Members of the Cathedral City community were shocked to learn Thursday of College of the Desert's plan to halt construction of the Roadrunner Motors project at a designated location in the city.
Mayor Raymond Gregory released a statement expressing his disappointment in the decision, stating in part, “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."
Mayor Gregory's statement added, "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.”
In a separate statement Thursday morning to News Channel 3, the Mayor said "it looks like those in power at the college district have made their decision about where funding will go and they don't really want to talk about it at this point."
Some local employees at a car dealership near the planned site of the project also expressed complete surprise and disappointment over COD's decision to stop construction at the originally planned location.
Cesar Cruz, a Service Manager at Volkswagen in Cathedral City, said "it's going to be a big impact for the community."
Dr. Martha Garcia, Superintendent/President of College of the Desert, issued a statement announcing the school's decision Wednesday afternoon.
She stated, "I take my responsibility for managing dollars entrusted to us by the community very seriously.”
Garcia added, “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.”
In a follow up statement Thursday afternoon, Garcia said “we are seeking information about alternative sites, including locations within Cathedral City, to build Roadrunner Motors. Data points we are assessing include the cost to acquire land, construction expenses, labor market indicators, and student enrollment. The data will be presented to the Board of Trustees and will play an integral role in the decision to finalize a location for the advanced automotive and technology program.”
She explained that “based on our initial analysis, the current location will increase the original project budget by more than $13 million, which is about a 67% increase in costs."
Garcia explained that once a new site is located and evaluated for cost, a final decision on how to move forward with the project will be made by the Board of Trustees.
No specific timeline was given as to when that will happen, or when ground will break on the Roadrunner Motors project.
Garcia added that College of the Desert owns the location where the project was supposed to be constructed, after purchasing the plot of land for roughly $3 million. She added the Board of Trustees could still decide to use the site for the Roadrunner Motors project, or sell the land altogether.
Tune into News Channel 3 at 10:00 p.m. to hear from local officials on both sides of the debate, as well as some local workers who share how this change will impact them directly.