Volume 46 | January 2021
INDIO CITY COUNCIL
Mayor Pro Tem
CITY MANAGER'S MESSAGE
Dear Indio Neighbors,

I’ve got nothing to say about 2020. In fact, I’d like to shroud the rear-view mirror. Last year in my January column, I made optimistic predictions for the year ahead. Let’s not look back to see how I did. Among other things, however, I predicted that our local schools would once again exceed our expectations in how they prepare our kids. Well...every member of the education community deserves heroic recognition for how they adapted to their unforeseen circumstances. And little did we know that parents were about to join the ranks of teachers!

If nothing else, we lived among many heroes in the year just past (Y2K+20). I toast the heroes...who continue their mission as we enter 2021.

As for me, I didn’t even predict my own retirement. I was not planning to retire at this time last year. I probably explained in this column previously that there are State pension system policies that made retirement a smart move for a 71-year old City Manager, with a heart history in the middle of a global pandemic. So I did it, but have stayed aboard as Interim City Manager while the City Council recruits my successor. I am sad to be leaving — probably in the March-April timeframe.

The application filing period for City Manager candidates closes on January 11. The City hired one of the best professional recruiters in the business to help them find the best candidate. An outgoing City Manager tends to stay arm’s length to the new recruitment, but I offer the following sentiments to the field of candidates:

Dear Future Indio City Manager:

I admit to a bit of melancholy over leaving this job that I have loved. But I am comforted by knowledge that the City Council will have chosen you from among an outstanding field of candidates, so that makes you the best of the best. I congratulate you for this achievement, among other noteworthy career accomplishments I am sure helped you earn this appointment.

Please allow me to validate your enthusiasm about this job. Indio is a great community. Truly. People here are genuine. They care about each other and they are proud of the progress they see happening in their town. We celebrate housing growth and the opening of new stores. And we celebrate just as eagerly when our young people graduate or earn academic honors. Indio welcomes new businesses that bring good jobs and music festivals that bring vibrancy to our local economy. Our local businesses are important to us. They have struggled during the pandemic, so our citizenry does its best to support them. Of late, we have been applauding upgrades to our older neighborhoods and the reinvestment in infrastructure. People here are proud of this wide-ranging progress and of one another.

You are going to love the City staff here! This is the single most loyal, hard-working, self-motivated staff I have ever had the good fortune to work with. They not only care about the public, they literally reflect it. And they speak up to represent it. For a city of nearly 100,000, the staff is small in all of our departments, but they step up to the task, as they have throughout the COVID crisis.

And as City Councils go — you hit the jackpot. Stable, smart, dedicated and diverse in viewpoint. They do not always agree, but they know how to disagree. And the meetings here are constructive in tone. We have no gadflies here! We have occasional public critics, but they are sincere and offer legitimate viewpoints. It is that kind of town. (And don’t say this out loud but...our meetings are relatively short as City meetings go. Maybe we should hold that in confidence!)

What I love most about Indio is that there is such opportunity here to make a meaningful difference — serving as a teammate to a staff, a City Council, and a community of such deserving people. I feel like I live in a resort 12 months a year, but surrounded by friends. It’s a pretty special place.

I welcome you to Indio. I offer you my support whenever you want it and a deep assurance, as is the ethic in our profession, that I will not be “under foot!”

To all candidates, I hope you thoroughly enjoy your participation in this process. We feel grateful to have your interest, and we appreciate this chance to tell you about our community.

Sincerely,

Mark Scott
Interim City Manager
(and amateur columnist)
mscott@indio.org
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):
  • Ave. 50 between Monroe and Jackson (Barcelona Development by Beazer Homes - full buildout expected by end of 2022)
  • Jackson between Ave. 48 & Ave. 50 (Gallery Links III by Gallery Homes- final homes to be complete by March of 2021)
  • Smurr and Highway 111 (Courthouse Bar & Grill- proposed)
  • Las Palmas and Highway 111 (Dunn Edwards Paint- opening this month)
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO...

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, Indio held its annual rotation of mayors, with Glenn Miller (center), passing the gavel to Elaine Holmes for 2021. Mayor Pro Tem will be Waymond Fermon (left).

Mayor Holmes was born and raised in Glendale, California. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from California State University Long Beach. She owns PJ’s Desert Trophies & Gifts in downtown Indio. Her business background includes managing international contracts and teaming agreements for companies such as Sprint and Fluor Daniel. 

Mayor Holmes has been a part of the Indio City Council since 2010 and has been mayor in 2012-13, 2016-17 and now 2020-21. She is currently involved in boards and commissions including the Indio Water Authority, Valley Sanitary District, the Governing Board of JFK Hospital and the Woman's Club of Indio.

This will be Mayor Pro Tem Waymond Fermon's first time to rotate into this position with the Indio City Council. Elected for the first time in 2018, Mayor Pro Tem Fermon was born in Indio, graduating from Indio High School in 1998. He attended College of the Desert’s first Public Safety Academy and graduated from the California Department of Corrections, Richard McGee Correctional Training Center, as a Correctional Officer in October 2002. Mayor Pro Tem Fermon has worked various positions at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County, and collaborated alongside multiple local, state and federal law enforcement agencies as an active member of the California Gang Task Force. 

A product of his community and former student-athlete, Mayor Pro Tem Fermon has a passion for supporting local youth sport and academic pipeline programs. He has been active in numerous outreach programs throughout the Coachella and Imperial Valleys such as school fundraisers, Career Day, guest speaking engagements, and is currently spearheading an outreach program with troubled and at-risk youth.
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: Bianca Puentes, owner of The Desert Pâtisserie, and a self-taught baker from the city of Indio.

What: Puentes started baking French Macarons and other French pastries about six years ago, and decided to enter her date flavored Macarons in Indio's Date Festival. Winning the "Judge's Choice" award inspired her to take the next step and start her own business.

Behind the scenes: Despite COVID and its restrictions, and with the nudging of her boyfriend, Puentes managed to obtain her business license this winter, and sells her tasty treats online, pick-up only. "I was so glad I did it, because everyone I came across was so nice and helpful," describes Puentes. "It made everything worth it!"

Right now: "During this time I think it is important to support and promote other local businesses, whether they are cottage food law operated like myself, operating food trucks/carts, or storefront businesses," offered Puentes.

Advice to others: "Be passionate, love what you do and most importantly, beauty sleep is crucial!"

Speaking personally: Puentes is mom to two "amazing" kids, Matthew (11) and Emilia (7). "They’re my biggest cheerleaders... and honestly, critics."

Before and after: A former receptionist in various medical fields, from hospice to physical therapy, Puentes says nothing beats having something that is your own.

Contact: Instagram: @thedesertpatisserie
Facebook: @The Desert Pâtisserie.
Phone: (760) 912-6909
BUILDING BRIDGES...

Construction is scheduled to begin this month on a $2.3 million bridge to cross the Whitewater River and connect the Cities of Indio and La Quinta for the 40-mile CV Link alternative transportation line. The 180-foot long concrete bridge is scheduled to be completed by fall 2021. 

The location marks an intersection of the stormwater channels near the city border, just east of Jefferson, and is part of a broader CV Link construction contract announced by the Coachella Valley Association of Governments in November.
FREE BANNERS AVAILABLE TO INDIO BUSINESSES

Free vinyl banners for Indio stores and restaurants are now available as part of Indio’s ongoing business assistance efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Indio Florist, one of downtown's most iconic businesses, was the first to apply for and receive its new banner. The Ortiz family said they were grateful for the increased visibility.

Interested stores and restaurants with current business licenses can obtain one of two versions of the ‘Open for business’ banner by submitting a simple form on the City of Indio’s website. Banners for restaurants will advertise ‘Take out and delivery’ available. 
 
In addition to banners, the City is also providing free personal protective equipment to Indio businesses and nonprofits. To apply for facemasks and rubber gloves, go to indio.org/ppe  
 
The Indio Chamber of Commerce will deliver the banners to interested businesses, some of whom already contacted the Chamber about needing additional support.
INDIO BUILDING INSPECTORS GO MOBILE

Thanks to new heat-resistant mobile computers, virtual inspections and in-vehicle WiFi, the City of Indio’s Building and Safety Inspectors now have the ability to work almost completely remotely.
 
The pandemic necessitated some of these transitions in the spring, but cooperation between the City’s Internet Technology (IT), Fleet and Community Development Departments have now allowed this capability to exceed expectations. 
 
“When the coronavirus hit in March, our world was somewhat turned upside down,” said Gil Estrada, Chief Building Official. “Part of Building and Safety’s mission was to continue to provide our services in the best manner possible where our inspectors, co-workers, and the public we serve were protected.”
 
Early on, inspectors started offering FaceTime or Lifesize inspections, which allow them to avoid entering buildings for prolonged periods. In addition, they were able to operate from mobile workspaces. However, inspectors now have computers designed specifically for working on or around construction sites, which also hold up well in extremely hot temperatures. Indio City Building and Safety inspectors also have personal WiFi hotspots, giving them the ability to provide notes and complete forms in real time, plus have access to permit history, permit notes, and plan checks, all from the field. 
 
The increased mobility expedites the inspection process for the public by allowing paperwork to be completed from inspectors’ mobile offices, instead of in the physical office at the end of the work-day. In addition, inspectors can scan and upload permit records and job cards to contractors without printing, or coming back to the office.
 
“We are truly appreciative of this joint effort to help serve the public more effectively and efficiently,” said Estrada, who pointed out that the City’s four inspectors average about 30 inspections per day.
TRANSFORMATIVE CLIMATE COMMUNITIES PLANNING EFFORT MOVES FORWARD

The draft of Indio’s Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) Plan went before the City Council on Wednesday, Dec. 16. This draft plan represents more than eight months of work by City staff and project consultants to identify potential community based projects in three neighborhoods: portions of Downtown Indio; the residential area west of Downtown known as the Sun Gold community; and the Jewel community, north of Ave. 45 and east of Jackson St.

These three neighborhoods were recognized by the Cal Enviroscreen Program as being disadvantaged areas of the City, meeting grant-funding requirements for future projects. Examples of potential projects that could happen in these neighborhoods include adding bike racks and sidewalks to encourage people to walk or bike more, increasing affordable housing projects and designing a community garden program.

The TCC Plan began in the late spring of 2020, and through extensive public outreach, helped set the framework for creating projects along four themes: housing, transportation, community and urban greening. Each of these themes was analyzed in terms of community need, cost to the City, greenhouse gas reduction and availability of community partners. Although the TCC plan does not fund any immediate programs or grants, it assists the City in identifying community priorities in these areas for future City, regional, state and federal funding.

Funding for the TCC Plan was provided by a $200,000 grant awarded by the California Strategic Growth Council. The draft plan is available to view at https://indiotccplan.com/
COVID DEDICATED WEBSITE ON INDIO.ORG

From FAQ's to help with bill or rent payments, and helpful links to guide you to answers, Indio's dedicated COVID website provides residents with a wide range of resources during the pandemic. Some of the information you can find on Indio.org/coronavirus includes:

  • Sector by sector information on what is open
  • Commonly requested information about vacation rentals
  • Rental assistance and free COVID related legal help
  • Vaccine information
  • Testing locations
  • Links to do City business online
  • Event rescheduling dates
  • Applications for FREE PPE and business banners
  • Links to state guidelines to reopening

Most recently, Indio.org/coronavirus was updated to include a link to connect with CA Notify, California's COVID-19 exposure notification app. CA Notify uses mobile phones’ Bluetooth functionality to determine if a person has come into contact with someone who recently tested positive for the virus. If an app user tests positive for COVID, the app will notify others with the app who have come into contact with them, without giving information about the individual who tested positive. To learn more and sign up, visit canotify.ca.gov.
CONVERT YOUR TURF

In an effort to save water and reduce maintenance, four neighborhoods in Indio are scheduled to undergo turf conversion projects over the next six months. Replacing grass with drought-tolerant landscaping also cuts water and maintenance costs, and prolongs the life of adjacent sidewalks and curbs. In addition, it reduces the amount of contamination by fertilizers and other chemicals into the groundwater, forwarding the City’s sustainability efforts. The first of the four projects is the Santa Rosa neighborhood, and includes turf removal, the installation of drip irrigation, and the addition of desert adapted plants and groundcover, such as small boulders and decomposed granite. Rincon, Monticello and Madison Ranch will follow similar renovation plans starting in February.

Five additional neighborhoods are scheduled for turf conversion projects in the second half of 2021. Those include areas near Palm Meadows, Verandas, Summer Place, Corta Bella and Rancho Verde. Comments or questions regarding the upcoming turf conversion should be directed to turfconversion@indio.org.

The City’s turf conversion efforts are made possible through a water conservation rebate program offered by Indio Water Authority. To learn more about obtaining a rebate for commercial and residential properties, go to www.indiowater.org/rebates.
COMMIT 2 CONSERVE IN 2021

As 2021 begins, many of us are looking forward to better days ahead. The new year also presents an opportunity for people to get a fresh start by beginning new habits.
 
One resolution you can make for 2021 is to Commit to Conserve water! Reducing your water use is a great way to protect our water supply and ensure we have water for the future. 
 
A number of projects inside and outside your home can significantly reduce water use. These include converting lawns to desert-friendly landscaping, upgrading irrigation systems with smart controllers and replacing older washing machines and toilets with high-efficiency models. To encourage customers to invest in water-saving devices and turf conversions, Indio Water Authority offers rebates that can add up to thousands of dollars! For more information, visit www.IndioWater.org.
 
Even small changes to routines can add up to significant reductions in water consumption over the course of a year. Remember to run washing machines and dishwashers only when full. This reduces the number of cycles needed, which saves water in the long run. Another easy way to cut back on water use is by taking shorter showers. Reducing your shower time by one minute a day will save hundreds of gallons of water each year.
 
If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution to create a better 2021, remember to Commit 2 Conserve!
MEAL PROGRAM SERVING MORE SENIORS

Despite the closure of the Indio Senior Center (ISC) in March, many programs continue serving the senior community in Indio. One of the most impactful programs is the Senior Meal Program. In partnership with the Mizell Center, the program provides take-away meals for anyone in the community age 60 and older. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the program has served about 16,300 nutritional meals.

Thanks to additional Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, the Indio Senior Meal Program was extended to provide an additional warm meal for seniors who otherwise do not have the resources to eat twice a day. Since the program began on Nov. 2, 2020, the ISC has provided an additional 1,480 meals to seniors who are in most need.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the ISC served about 20 meals a day. Now, it provide about 75 meals to seniors who take part in the program.

Meals are available for pick up Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Indio Senior Center. On Thursday and Friday, additional meals for Saturday and Sunday are provided. To become part of the Senior Nutrition Program, please stop by the Indio Senior Center at 45700 Aladdin St. between 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. to fill out an application. A photo I.D. is required at the time of registration. For more information, email us at seniorcenter@indio.org or call (760)391-4170.
UP IN LIGHTS

Thousands of lights sparkled in the night, music synchronized to the radio, drones whizzed overhead to capture the moment, and holiday spirit abounded, as the community came together for a Celebration of Lights! This one of a kind effort by the City of Indio and the Chamber of Commerce lightened the spirits of our community members by encouraging the decoration of homes and businesses this season. It also netted four winners $2,000 cash prizes and trophies.

Nearly two dozen families and businesses took part in the 2020 Celebration of Lights contest, with more than 2,900 total votes cast!

Congratulations to all who took part, and to these four standouts. (Click the links to watch their submissions!)

Mayor's Award- Lopez Family
Indio Chamber of Commerce Award- Lua Family
People's Choice Award- Razo Family
'SEWING' HER SUPPORT

Desert Sands Unified School District bus driver trainer Kelly LaPonsey is also a talented craftswoman. She recently crocheted a large police recognition flag blanket for Indio's California Highway Patrol Desert Patrolman's Squad Club.

CHP uses the Squad Club to fundraise for their foundation to help those in need, including the 11-99 Foundation, which provides emergency assistance to CHP employees and scholarships for their children. Kelly reached out to the station and her efforts were met with gratitude.

"We were all very surprised and shocked by her generosity," said CHP Captain Dennis Woodbury. It’s a reminder why working and living in Indio, and all of the Coachella Valley, is so great! 

LaPonsey presented the blanket on Dec. 16, and it was won by an officer during the raffle on Christmas Eve. "He had put a bunch of tickets in the container hoping he’d get it," added Woodbury. "His determination paid off!"

Coming from a family of law enforcement officers, LaPonsey wanted to thank the CHP's team for keeping DSUSD bus drivers and students safe on the road. She extended her message of appreciation for all their efforts on behalf of the community. 
The City of Indio is the largest and fastest growing city in the Coachella Valley with more than with more than 90,000 residents. With nationally recognized public safety services, exceptional schools, great parks and senior and teen centers, no wonder more than 2,800 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