Modestans, when you look at your ballot for the Nov. 5 election, Measure V will look familiar. It isn’t quite déjà vu all over again, but close.
Previously, we’ve seen advisory measures on whether the city should eventually extend sewer service to the Shackelford neighborhood, the Robertson Road area, the Parklawn neighborhood and, most recently, the Rouse-Colorado neighborhood in 2011. In every case, voters have said yes to these measures, and we’re glad they did. We also urge citizens to approve Measure V, which will eventually help the airport neighborhood join the city.
These votes are just one step in the long and arduous process to bring a number of county pockets up to city standards and then annex them into the city. As we’ve said before, these votes are nowhere near the most difficult step. The bigger challenge is always finding the millions of dollars it costs to install sewer mains, a pumping station and other infrastructure. There’s no definitive timeline when the money might be available, but the advisory vote is a bureaucratic hurdle that could help the city and county show their good intentions and therefore qualify for more state and federal dollars to help cover the cost.
One of the reasons that we have supported all of these advisory measures on neighborhood pockets is that they don’t involve growth per se. It’s a matter of providing sewer service to already urbanized neighborhoods that are relying on old septic systems, which are prone to failure and can pose a genuine public health hazard. These neighborhoods were built under the more lax standards of the county, with narrower streets and no sidewalks or streetlights. Some have gotten streetlights through the years through the formation of lighting districts.
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The airport neighborhood is one of the better known pockets. As the name suggests, it adjoins the Modesto Airport, but it also sits on the bank of the Tuolumne River and includes a section of the Tuolumne River Regional Park. It was populated initially by Dust Bowl refugees and others seeking cheap housing. It encompasses 165 acres and 500 parcels, of which 466 are residential parcels. About 1,600 people live in the area.
We hope that Measure V will be the last advisory vote on a single neighborhood. The city and Stanislaus County have been working on a comprehensive plan that would cover all of the remaining county pockets within or adjoining the city. That collective measure could be on the next scheduled city ballot in 2015.
Meanwhile, we recommend a “yes” vote on Modesto’s Measure V this fall.