RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County supervisors signed off Tuesday on a $2.57 million project to upgrade restrooms and heating systems at the Indio Fairgrounds, using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act money because the site is a designated COVID-19 testing location.
In a 5-0 vote, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Department of Facilities Management to proceed with hiring a construction management firm, Rancho Cucamonga-based Ledesma & Meyer Construction Co., and procure other services and equipment necessary for the fairgrounds project.
Economic Development Agency Director Suzanne Holland told the board that buildings on the county-owned property are “dilapidated” and there was “inadequate equipment in order for us to provide services.”
The location was converted to a COVID-19 screening center in April, and not long afterward, the federal government situated a temporary Federal Medical Station at the site for triaging COVID-positive patients, providing temporary treatment space for non-critical cases.
The station has since been deactivated for lack of demand, according to Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton.
Holland said most of the deficiencies identified at the fairgrounds stemmed from the temporary conversions that followed the public health emergency declarations.
Documents indicated a new air conditioning and heating system may be needed, with improvements to restrooms and enhancements to the electrical system, as well as a new paint job.
Department of Facilities Management staff indicated the modifications should be immediately addressed for the benefit of the public and personnel working at the Arabia Street site.
Rancho Mirage resident Brad Anderson questioned the allocation of CARES funding to make improvements that were probably needed before COVID-19.
“This seems like a corrupt use of federal funds,” he told the board. “You’ve got painting and replacing a door. It’s not an appropriate use of federal funds.”
The county has received or been earmarked nearly $500 million in CARES appropriations. Money has gone to temporary youth employment programs, aid to businesses and rent stabilization for the unemployed.
A timeline for completion of the fairgrounds project was not given.