Ken Carlson

County catching complaints over Parklawn catch basins

After resurfacing and installing sewer lines, crews have carved swales in front of homes for holding rainwater in the Parklawn neighborhood of Modesto.
After resurfacing and installing sewer lines, crews have carved swales in front of homes for holding rainwater in the Parklawn neighborhood of Modesto.

A low-cost innovation to handle stormwater in the Parklawn neighborhood in south Modesto has not been well received.

Stanislaus County’s Public Works Department recently directed a contractor to carve “swales,” or catch basins, in the public easement in front of homes to “spread the puddle,” or hold water in dozens of basins to prevent street flooding. With the recent storms, Parklawn residents now have mud puddles outside their homes. And they don’t like it.

Some of the catch basins are 2 feet deep. They would seem to be trip hazards, obstacles for firefighters responding to incidents and possible havens for mosquitoes. If the basins contribute to accidents, the county could see more damage claims added to the fresh batch it receives every month.

County supervisors did not express an opinion when Parklawn resident Dennis Casey complained about the swales at Tuesday’s board meeting. Along with the other complaints from residents, Casey suggested the basins already are causing erosion problems near the recently installed sewer lines in the neighborhood.

Rebecca Harrington, who serves on the South Modesto Municipal Advisory Council, said she does not remember the catch basins being discussed at council meetings earlier this year that featured presentations on the Parklawn sewer project. Residents have claimed the county failed to notify them about the drainage solution or seek input from the community.

Public Works Director Matt Machado told supervisors the $3 million sewer and drainage project is not complete. Some finishing touches will change the appearance of the basins, he promised.

Machado acknowledged that pond water is running into the ground in places where the soil was not compacted around sewer laterals laid by the contractor. Despite the complaints, the director maintained that Parklawn has better stormwater drainage because of the catch basins.

“It isn’t perfect, but we have added capacity to a system that was deficient at best,” Machado said.

The county still has more catch basins to carve in the neighborhood. Casey and other residents want the county to undo the work it has done.

CLINICS IN TURMOIL – A group of employees and health care providers with the nonprofit Golden Valley Health Centers wasn’t able to speak to the board of directors last week about its opposition to Chief Executive Officer Tony Weber.

The board meeting was moved from Golden Valley’s office in Merced to the home of board Chairman John Price. Thirty to 40 people with signs gathered outside the home but were not allowed inside to speak with board members, employees said.

Weber took over as CEO in May and has been at odds with staff members who opposed his hiring. Some key staff members were fired in the fall, including former Chief Medical Officer Silvia Diego, who on Friday at the courthouse in downtown Modesto filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit. A group of employees, health providers and patients gathered Friday in downtown Modesto to support Diego.

It’s not uncommon for unionized nurses or government workers to openly challenge their employers. What’s unusual is that Golden Valley staff members who are speaking out are not in a union. Only the medical assistants and office workers have union representation.

Some who have blasted management in open letters to the board have cited protections under California’s whistleblower statute, which prohibits employers from taking disciplinary action against employees who report violations of state or federal law.

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