The company town is dead. Long live the company town.
Scotia, California’s last company town, has voted to become independent, according to preliminary election results released Wednesday. With 147 ballots cast — less than half of the eligible voters — 136 were to make the town an independent community services district, essentially severing the town from the New York hedge fund that owns it.
Also in Tuesday’s balloting, voters elected a town governing board of five people.
Scotia, founded in the 1880s by Pacific Lumber Co., has been in a state of uncertainty since the lumber company filed for bankruptcy in 2007.
The small town of 800, set among the redwoods of California’s remote North Coast, was obtained by Marathon Asset Management in bankruptcy proceedings. Marathon ran the town through a subsidiary called the Town of Scotia Co., which maintained public spaces, fixed problems in the homes — all rentals — and served as the de facto city management.
The five elected board members will assume control Dec. 30, 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 pay to upgrade Scotia’s aging sewer system before the rented homes can be sold to their owners and the town can be completely independent.
Although the town is still a few years away from self-governance, some are calling this Scotia Independence Day, Bacik said. The town is unique from the 2,500 other company towns that once existed throughout America in that it has survived its main business drying up and going bankrupt. It now is home to a brewery and water container manufacturer, and it 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.”