California's last company town votes for independence
Scotia, California's last company town, has voted to become independent, according to preliminary results from an election held Tuesday. With 147 votes cast (which amounts to not even half of eligible voters) 136 voted to make the town an independent community services district, essentially severing the town from the Manhattan investors who own it and turning over governance to a board of five people elected Tuesday.
The heavily wooded Scotia, founded in the 1880s by the Pacific Lumber Co., is set among the fog and redwoods of Northern California. The small town of 800 has been in a state of uncertainty since Pacific Lumber filed for bankruptcy in 2007. Marathon Asset Management, a hedge fund, obtained the town and its resources in bankruptcy proceedings and has been running the town ever since through a subsidiary called the Town of Scotia Co. That company maintains public spaces, fixes problems in the homes -- all rented -- and governs the town.
Now, the five elected board members will over governance on the last Friday of December, said Frank Bacik, president of the Town of Scotia Co. They'll get training on how to run a town, but Marathon still has to spend money to upgrade the town's aged sewer system before the rented homes can be sold to their owners and the town can be completely independent.
Though the town is still a few years away from independence, some are calling this Scotia's Independence Day, Bacik said. The town is unique from the 2,500 other company towns that operated throughout America in that it has survived its main business drying up and going bankrupt. It now hosts a brewery and water container manufacturer, and is hoping to attract more businesses.
"For me, it's been very exciting to see a community become independent," Bacik said. "We are no longer a company town -- the company town has died. But our company town has survived."
For a video that includes historic pictures of Scotia, go here.
-- Alana Semuels