Modesto vote to guide sewer project

kcarlson@modbee.comNovember 2, 2013 

On Tuesday’s ballot, Measure V asks for voters’ advice on a wastewater service extension to the Airport Neighborhood in south Modesto.

The nonbinding vote in Modesto is mandatory before Stanislaus County can extend sewer lines to the unincorporated pocket to address problems with failing septic tanks.

County officials have waited for the advisory vote before trying to secure funds to pay for the long-awaited infrastructure, said Angela Freitas, director of planning and community development for Stanislaus County.

The airport-area sewer extension was one of the top three redevelopment projects for the county before the state abolished redevelopment agencies in February 2012.

The county used grant funding to pay for plans and engineering work for the installations, Freitas said. But she had no time estimate on when the improvements in the airport area could be made.

Freitas said the county will most likely find the money for initial improvements and that the rest of the work would be done in phases as dollars become available.

According to long-standing policy, Modesto requires the county to install improvements in unincorporated islands before wastewater service is provided. After the trunk lines are in the ground, residential and commercial property owners in the airport area will be expected to pay for service connections.

Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh signed the argument for Measure V found in ballot pamphlets. No rebuttal was filed.

Supporters contend that wastewater service is needed for the health and safety of airport-area residents and that it won’t affect monthly sewer rates citywide. There’s no chance the extension will induce sprawl because there are few empty lots in the neighborhood.

Wastewater service would be provided in an area bordered by Hyde Street, Conejo Avenue, Oregon Avenue and Santa Rosa Avenue.

Homero Mejia, executive director of Congregations Building Community, said the advisory measure is extremely important. “Some of these neighborhoods have waited a long time for infrastructure,” he said. “It’s good that all the neighborhoods come up to par.”

Modesto has previously held wastewater extension votes for 10 unincorporated “islands,” or county-governed pockets that typically lack sidewalks, sewer service, streets lights and other amenities. The city and county have talked about bundling the other 16 islands in an advisory vote in 2015.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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