Keyes can be a soggy place when winter storms roll in. Intersections flood and muddy water collects along roadsides in the town's older section devoid of curbs and gutters.
That's about to change, with a $17.3 million project to put curbs, gutters and a storm-drain system in the unincorporated town east of Highway 99 and south of Ceres. The system is a redevelopment project, which means the money comes from a bond issue that's paid off with additional tax revenue generated in the redevelopment area.
Construction on the two-year project is scheduled to begin this spring and no doubt will inconvenience some residents, said Stanislaus County Public Works Department Director Matt Machado.
Also, a vote will be needed to support the formation of a special taxing district to pay for system maintenance and a park that is part of the project. The owners of 1,033 parcels will be asked to pay about $160 a year for a single-family home.
For the money, they will get the storm drains; curbs and gutters; a filtration system to take the dirt, oil and debris from the water runoff; and a collection basin that will double as a community park, Machado said.
Another benefit is the repaving of pothole-filled streets in the older section of Keyes. The streets will be torn up to install the storm sewer pipes, and new pavement will be put down, Machado said.
"It will upgrade the look of the entire community," said Ron Freitas, the county planning department director. That area developed before the county had standards for curbs, gutters and drainage, Freitas said.
Construction will be timed to ensure that residents have access to their homes, Machado said, but they will be driving on dirt and around some streets while the work is under way.
Newer subdivisions in Keyes have curbs, gutters and storm sewers, but they will benefit from the project as well, Machado said. The filtration system, which was built during the past year, will clean up runoff from those homes as well, and the drainage basin will increase the capacity of the existing storm drains.
The filtration system is necessary because the water eventually goes into an irrigation canal and into creeks and rivers, Machado said.
The project became part of a legal dispute in the past year, when a lawsuit contended that the county discriminated against Latino neighborhoods in south and west Modesto. The Keyes project was an example of money that should have been allocated to sewers, curbs and gutters in south and west Modesto, lawyers contended.
The argument didn't sway the court, however, which noted that the Keyes population was almost 50 percent Latino in the last census.
The Keyes project has been on the drawing board for at least 16 years.
Henry Castino, a property owner in Keyes for more than two decades, is skeptical that the project will happen.
"I've heard it for years," he said as he stood by a deep puddle stretching into the intersection of Seventh Street and Anna Avenue. Castino, a retired driver for Wal-Mart, has apartments and rental homes in the area.
"All this has no place to go," he said of the standing water. It does eventually dry up, he added, but it takes a while.
Machado wants to assure residents that the project is really going to happen this time.
"The money's there, the design is done. I think it's really going to happen," he said.
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2349.