Volume 47 | February 2021
INDIO CITY COUNCIL
Mayor Pro Tem
CITY MANAGER'S MESSAGE
Dear Neighbors,

Recognizing that challenges are still monumental, I admit to feeling a certain hopefulness on the COVID front. My emails and phone calls are evidence that residents and business owners are tired of this situation. COVID fatigue — to use the term of the day. We all wish vaccines could roll out faster. We all wish people were not suffering so badly from loss of jobs and business failures. But nonetheless, there is hope we have never had over the previous 12 months.

There IS a viable vaccine! At least three of them. As slow and frustrating as the rollout may be, people are getting the shots. While I shudder at the term, there is hope that “herd immunity” is starting to occur. 

And just recently our longest suffering businesses got some degree of relief. Outdoor dining is back. Hair and nail salons, and other businesses, can reopen within COVID safety protocols. And while it is painful to watch, the federal government seems to be closing in on financial relief to all those suffering the most from a disease that is not at all their fault! 

I am fully aware that there are many among us who find fault with each of the efforts I just mentioned as "signs of hope." But I choose hope! I can vouch for how hard Riverside County officials are working to bring about solutions. And as always, I am so awed by the commitment of those tired, but undeterred heroes in the medical response field. And by all of the first responders, and frontline workers. I grew up the son of a dedicated Marine, so I have always honored our veterans. Now I add the COVID heroes to the list of those to whom I will feel a lifelong debt. Thank you for your service to my family and our community.

In last month’s column I addressed the field of candidates who will be competing to replace me in this City Manager job I have loved so much. I wanted them to know from the current incumbent (me) that Indio is truly a special place. I am in no hurry to leave, but I am happy to report that the City Council will soon be narrowing the field of candidates that will be interviewed. I’ve been there. Some very enthusiastic candidates are studying Indio right now hoping to make their best impression. It works both ways. We will do the same to impress them.

I have always characterized Indio as a town full of opportunity. More precisely, its “potential for opportunity.” If we manage our growth and revitalization opportunity properly, we can create an Indio that combines the best of the past and the future. To state the obvious, we have to remember it is not just about growing buildings and infrastructure — it is also about nurturing and preserving our sense of community.

If truth be known, I have learned as much as I have imparted during my years as City Manager. There are smart, caring people all around me. I am envious of the next City Manager who has those opportunities in front of him or her.

Couple of other topics: We just heard that the Coachella and Stagecoach Music Festivals will be cancelled again this April. I was not surprised to hear that County Public Health and Goldenvoice chose to put public safety first. Losing the festivals does affect the City’s budget, but we are adequately diversified in our revenues that it does not traumatize the City. We worry more for those largely hourly workers who have already suffered during the pandemic. And we regret the losses for local businesses who supply the festivals. We very much look forward to the day that these and other festivals can operate safely in our community. We have great confidence that the great collaborations among Goldenvoice, Empire Polo and the City of Indio will continue well into the future. 

There is still a great deal of new investment occurring in Indio. I will cover that topic again in my next newsletter column. Meanwhile, please stay safe. We're getting there!

With hope,
Mark Scott
City Manager
NEWS OF INDIO
WHAT'S NEW INDIO?

From new housing, to new retail, restaurants and office buildings, the city's Community Development department is busier than ever. Driving around the city, as ground gets graded and walls go up, you might be curious about the final products.

Here is a look at what is opening In(dio):
  • Golf Center Pkwy. between Ave. 45 and Highway 111 (new TKB restaurant, under construction)
  • Ave. 43 and Calhoun St. (Shadow Ranch by DR Horton, finishing up phase 9, phase 10 to begin in Feb.)
  • Highway 111 and Las Palmas (Dutch Bros. Coffee to break ground Feb. 1)
  • Highway 111 east of Jefferson (Mathis Brothers Outlet Center, building permits issued)
  • Oleander Ave. and Sunburst St. (Sunburst RV Storage, design review approved by the Planning Commission)
  • Fred Waring west of Clinton St. (Bel Cielo by Brenson Homes, final homes pre-sold and major construction completed)
INDIO BUSINESS

Indio Business is a new feature of Indio Live, showcasing the stories that make our City's small business owners so special. To nominate a business, email news@indio.org

Who: Janet Rodriguez, owner of the Great Design Studio, creating stationery, logos, branding, invites and designs for local businesses.

What: Designing her own wedding invitation led Rodriguez to start creating content for her friends and family as a hobby. She got her business license from the City of Indio in January of 2020. The Great Design Studio now has a line of merchandise that is shoppable year-round online, and will be featured at the soon-to-open Indio Food Park and at a Westfield Mall pop-up event on Feb. 6.

Before and after: Rodriguez received an associate's degree in architecture from College of the Desert in 2016 and began working towards her bachelor's degree from CAL Poly Pomona before realizing engineering wasn't going to be her passion. She's currently on track to obtain a second associate's degree in landscape architecture from COD this spring.

Behind the scenes: Rodriguez had to quickly pivot when COVID hit. "Since people were not getting married, I had to branch out to other aspects of design, including branding and logos. Anything that could be printed." 

Right now: "I also wanted to get involved in giving back to the community, so I started designing monthly stickers with proceeds going to local organizations," explained Rodriguez. The first round of stickers netted $250 for a local church to buy Christmas presents, and for Desert Marriage & Family counseling to provide pro bono services.

Advice to others: "It's so easy to see and compare yourself to others who may be doing something similar. Who you are as a person will set you apart. If you put out kindness and love, that will be returned to you."

Speaking personally: In addition to running The Great Design Studio, Rodriguez works full time doing landscape design for a family owned and operated business in the Coachella Valley, and is married with two children, ages 6 and 2. "I've been wanting to do something on my own for some time, that I can also do at home so I can be with my children." 

Contact: Instagram: @thegreatdesignstudio
Facebook: @TheGreatDesignStudio
Phone: (760) 296-9396

IID TO IMPLEMENT NEW PAYMENT PLANS FOR COVID-19 RELIEF

In order to help customers during the unprecedented pandemic and protect the financial health of the local, not-for-profit utility, the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors approved a multi-faceted payment plan for customers who have fallen behind on their electric bills.
 
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the district has voluntarily suspended utility disconnections for non-payment. IID has made every effort to assist customers by offering direct payment assistance, flexible payment plans and referrals to partner agencies who offer additional payment assistance through federally funded programs. 
Starting on February 17, 2021, customers with past-due balances of $50 or more will be automatically enrolled in an 8-month or 12-month payment plan for utility debt accrued through December 31, 2020. Customers currently on an energy assistance program or who provide a COVID-19 declaration of financial hardship will be enrolled in a 12-month plan. Customers who are not experiencing a financial hardship will be put on an 8-month plan. 
 
With this change in policy, disconnections for non-payment will resume under normal business procedures. For more information, visit www.iid.com.
NEW FREE COVID-19 TESTING SITE IN INDIO

Two free COVID-19 testing locations are now available in Indio. A state-operated coronavirus testing site opened at 44801 Golf Center Parkway in January, supplementing the location at the Riverside County Fairgrounds . The currently unused building (formerly Amistad High School) has been provided to Riverside County Public Health by Desert Sands Unified School District. The site is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Appointments must be made in advance at https://lhi.care/covidtesting; 165 appointments are available each day for all ages. 

The site is operated by the State of California and OptumServe, in partnership with Riverside County. 

 For information on testing and county and state-operated testing sites, visit

NEW HELP2OTHERS PROGRAM TO ASSIST MORE IWA CUSTOMERS

The impacts of COVID 19 are ongoing and difficult. Our community and residents are experiencing both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic deeply. 
 
Indio Water Authority and the City of Indio understand these challenges. That’s why we have teamed up with United Way of the Desert to help. The new Help 2 Others COVID-19 Water Bill Assistance Program provides grants to help those who have eligible residents who have fallen behind on their water bills.
 
Program Details:
  • Covers past due water bills between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020
  • Only available to Indio Water Authority residential customers
  • Must demonstrate loss of job, reduction of income, health impact or other documentation connecting need to COVID-19
  • Customer has not utilized other assistance to cover past due water charges during the qualification period
  • Applications accepted through March 15, 2021 or until funding is exhausted
  • A submitted application does not guarantee funding approval
 
How to apply:
  • Visit unitedwayofthedesert.org/help2others-indio after February 16 for full program details
  • Fill out the digital application form OR download the print application and email it to water@uwdesert.org once completed
  • Those who do not have access to a computer can call 760-766-2603 during normal business hours
 
Additional Assistance:
Those who do not qualify for the temporary Help 2 Others COVID-19 Water Bill Assistance program may benefit from the existing Help 2 Others Assistance Program. Visit unitedwayofthedesert.org/help2others for full details.
HOUSING ELEMENT UPDATE

Every eight years, the City of Indio is required to update its Housing Element, a plan for existing and projected housing needs in Indio.  

The Southern California Association of Governments has identified that the City of Indio must plan for 7,793 housing units between October 2021 and October 2029. Of those units, 2,954, or 38 percent must fall into the category of "affordable." The Housing Element will help determine how the City will accomplish this ambitious task, how affordable housing can be accelerated during this timeframe, and also explore pro-housing policies and strategies that the City Council could adopt to help create more housing in Indio. 

This process is now underway, and your participation is welcomed and encouraged.

Three public outreach meetings are planned in order to receive feedback, answer questions, and provide more detail about new housing opportunities in the City of Indio that will meet the needs of all residents.

  • Thursday, February 18, 2021, 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
  • Thursday, April 22, 2021, 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
  • Thursday, July 8, 2021, 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM

Virtual meeting links will be available at www.indio.org/housingelementupdate and can also be viewed live on the City's Facebook page.

In addition, give us input or ask questions by leaving a voicemail at (760) 391-4061 or emailing housingupdate@indio.org

SHHS KNIGHTS PLAN FOR NATIONAL SKILLSUSA WEEK

There is an exciting component of Shadow Hills High School College & Career/Career Technical Education or CTE that many may not know about. 

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. A nonprofit national education association, SkillsUSA serves middle-school, high-school and college/postsecondary students preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service (including health) occupations. 
 
SHHS Knights will be participating in the upcoming National SkillsUSA week the second week of February. Each day of the week has a theme which CTE students will participate in that is meaningful to the program. On Recognition Day, students will wear attire that “celebrate and honor members, advisors, administrators, business partners, community leaders and supporters who make an impact on CTE programs and SkillsUSA chapter". Students will showcase charitable projects and activities in which they have participated on Give Back Day. During Partner day, CTE students and teachers invite their industry partners to speak at school during class. 

SkillsUSA empowers its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens. SkillsUSA has a vision to produce the most highly skilled workforce in the world, providing every member the opportunity for career success.
RIVERSIDE COUNTY LIBRARY IN INDIO OFFERS FREE VIRTUAL LITERACY SERVICES

Many Riverside County residents’ ability (approximately 32 percent) to use or comprehend print material is considered “at-risk” according to a recent study by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). This skill deficit can impact one’s ability to read with their children, pass a driver’s test, apply for jobs online and so many other day-to-day activities. 

Riverside County Library System (RCLS) Literacy Services is a uniquely situated program that helps address the adult literacy gap with free community classes and one-on-one tutoring available to all Riverside County residents at the Indio library branch. During the time of COVID-19, literacy services and programs have been converted to the online format using a combination of the video conferencing apps, Zoom and Jitsi. Due to challenges with digital access, RCLS Literacy Services is now also offering digital resources, such as Chromebooks and tablets, for checkout by enrolled adult learners to help bridge the digital divide exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RCLS Literacy Services has supported learners in one-on-one reading/writing tutoring, English Conversation Clubs, Citizenship preparation classes and other educational support services and workshops. Our Indio adult community members—such as those who need to pass their U.S. citizenship test, a test to promote or transfer at work or communicating with their child’s teacher—need a helpful place to go for literacy support for day-to-day challenges. Riverside County Library System Literacy Services can offer these exact support services to continue to improve literacy across the county. 

For more information, please contact the Riverside County Library System Literacy Department Tuesday–Friday 9:00am–5:00pm at (951) 840-7901 or Literacy@rivlib.net.    
FIRST5 RIVERSIDE CHAMPION FOR CHILDREN NOMINATIONS OPEN

Know someone in our city who is a great "Champion for Children?" The nomination deadline for the First 5 Riverside (F5R) Champion for Children Award has been extended to Feb. 16.
 
The award was created to honor and bring awareness to people and organizations whose leadership and advocacy embody the vision of First 5 Riverside. Nominees must be a resident of Riverside County and have lived or worked within the county for at least two years. The person selected will have achievements that align with F5R strategic goals, including quality early learning, comprehensive health and development, and resilient families. 

The next Champion for Children will be awarded up to a $1,000 sponsorship to support a community event. The recipient will also be presented a plaque and certificate by the Riverside County Children and Families Commission sometime in the spring and will be recognized on the F5R website and social media channels. 
 
Visit www.First5Riverside.org for the complete nomination process and form. For additional information, contact F5R Public Information Specialist Sean Pravica at (951) 203-3097. Let's nominate someone from Indio!
ASSISTANCE LEAGUE HELPING INDIO STUDENTS

Learning remotely doesn't eliminate the need for school supplies and back-to-school necessities. But it does make determining the level of need more difficult! Undaunted, Assistance League Coachella Valley (ALCV) took on the task of reworking their traditional Operation School Bell program to meet the needs of nearly 300 students from Indio schools.

Last week, children attending Andrew Jackson, Van Buren and Theodore Roosevelt Elementary Schools received mid-year TLC from ALCV to help them succeed at home in their virtual classrooms. The all-volunteer ALCV team worked with the schools' principals and counselors to develop lists of students in need of uniforms, new clothing, sneakers, socks, underwear and hygiene kits. The care-packages were then prepared, customized for each student, bagged, and picked up by Desert Sands Unified School District for distribution.

"The pandemic has made this a challenging time, but Assistance League Coachella Valley is finding creative ways to continue to serve school children, seniors, and the military in our community," said Judy Pearson, ALCV Marketing Communications Chair. 
 
ALCV will work with DSUSD and other Coachella Valley school districts throughout February to help additional children in need as part of their national Action Week.

In addition to Operation School Bell, ALCV also provides local nursing home residents with holiday gifts and lap blankets, baby shower gifts to first-time mothers stationed at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, and provides support to families living in homeless shelters.
INDIO "CAN" HELP OUR FOUR-LEGGED RESIDENTS

For nearly eight years, the City of Indio has partnered with the Coachella Animal Network or CAN, to help our residents and their furry friends. Take a look at CAN by the numbers...
  
  • 2013: The first year CAN held its first clinic in Indio to help pet owners care for their animals with low-cost services.
  • 200: CAN has one monthly vaccine and microchip and license clinic averaging 200 dogs and cats being serviced.
  • 28: Spay/Neuter clinics held in Indio every year. On average, 60-70 pets sterilized each month. 
  • Over 12,000: Total number of dogs and cats sterilized through CAN. This is paid for by donations to CAN and the City of Indio subsidizing the cost for Indio residents' pets.
  • 4: One-day clinics a year exclusively to help with "big dogs".
  • 17: Cost of a license in Indio for a sterilized dog (Cats are not required to be license.)
  • 100: Cost of a license for an unsterilized dog.
  • 10: Cost of a dog license for seniors citizens.
  • 0: Paid employees. Every clinic is organized and ran by volunteers including the veterinarians.

For more information about CAN, visit coachellaanimalnetwork.org/ or call (760) 848-4284

"We make it possible for low-income families to become responsible pet owners by providing services to get their pet in compliance with the County and city laws," says Kim Maguire Hardee, CAN Director. "Education is needed so people know where they can take their animals for services. I am very proud that the City of Indio has supported our work here, and has kept the price of licenses low to make responsible pet ownership easier for people who love their animals."
BATHROOM ROUTINE GAME CHANGERS

More water gets used in the bathroom than any other room in the house. That’s why it’s important to conserve when possible. 
 
Leaks in the bathroom not only waste water, they can also damage your home. Check for leaks each spring and fall when changing your clocks for Daylight Savings Time. Remember to listen to your toilet. If you hear it running long after it was flushed, your tank is leaking into the bowl.
 
Taking shorter showers is the simplest way to cut water consumption. The next big step towards savings is to turn off the water while shampooing, scrubbing and shaving. Turn it back on to rinse off, minimizing the water that goes down the drain.
 
When filling the bathtub, be sure to plug the drain before you turn on the water. You can adjust the temperature as the tub fills, instead of letting cold water go to waste.
 
Skip the blades and step up to an electric razor to trim your water use. For those who prefer a traditional shave, fill a small bowl with water to rinse your razor. This requires less water than filling the entire sink or leaving the faucet running to rinse it off.
 
Instead of tossing trash in the toilet, use a wastepaper basket. This will limit water use and reduce the chance you will clog your pipes.
 
For more ideas on reducing water use inside and outside your home, visit www.IndioWater.org
The City of Indio is the largest and fastest growing city in the Coachella Valley with more than with more than 90,000 residents. Nearly 1.4 million people visit Indio every year to attend its world famous arts, food, and music festivals. With nationally recognized public safety services, exceptional schools, great parks and senior and teen centers, no wonder more than 2,700 new housing units are in construction or being planned throughout the city in addition to new hotels, restaurants and retailers. Indio was the first city incorporated in the Coachella Valley on May 16, 1930, and is governed by an elected City Council that employs a City Manager. The City of Indio embraces its diversity and provides outstanding municipal services to enhance the quality of life for its residents, visitors and business community.
City of Indio |100 Civic Center Drive | (760) 391-4000
information@indio.org | www.indio.org