MODESTO -- Local officials have decided that a committee composed of Salida, Modesto and Stanislaus County officials will review an annexation study and present the results at community meetings next year.
Thomas Reeves, chairman of the Salida Municipal Advisory Council, said that rather than city and county officials throwing out facts at public meetings, the panel is a better way to share the information with Salida's 13,700 residents.
Some residents still are smarting over a 2007 county board decision that approved the 3,300-acre Salida Community Plan without taking it to a public vote.
Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh has proposed the Salida annexation as one of the major initiatives of his first year in office, citing the potential for economic development in Salida's approved industrial areas.
The county and Modesto are funding the $60,000 study by Sacramento-based Goodwin Consulting, which will consider the fiscal impacts of the possible annexation.
Reeves, Salida MAC member Katherine Borges and former Salida fire chief Dale Skiles will serve on the panel. The committee also will include county Supervisor Terry Withrow and two county staff members, as well as Marsh, Councilman Dave Cogdill Jr. and a city staffer.
The committee members are not all of one mind, Reeves said. He said he is open to any of the three choices for Salida's future staying as is, annexation or city incorporation, while Borges is openly opposed to annexation.
Reeves applauded the city and county for funding the study. He said the committee won't make any recommendations but will furnish information to help Salida residents decide their future. He expects the panel will meet a couple of times before the study is released in mid-December.
Withrow, whose district includes the community, noted that dozens of residents have attended recent Salida MAC meetings at which the annexation and other issues were discussed.
"Salida residents had it pushed down their throats when the Board of Supervisors passed the Salida Community Plan," he said. "A group of us thought (a committee) was the best way to do this."
Borges said she's still unclear on the purpose of the committee. She said the Goodwin study is not intended to provide information to Salidans, but will analyze cost-sharing between the county and Modesto and what it would cost for the city to annex the largest unincorporated community in the county.
Fiscal benefits eyed
According to the city's contract with Goodwin, the consultants are to study the city and county operating budgets and determine the fiscal benefits, if any, from future residential, retail, office and industrial development.
The study also will consider tax-sharing scenarios between the county and Modesto.
It could be that commercial and industrial development would generate enough annual tax revenue to pay for city services in Salida such as law enforcement, recreation and parks. If the study finds that revenue would fall short of service costs, officials would have a tough time selling the annexation to people in Salida or Modesto.
"We first need to know if it is something that will work between the city and the county," Marsh said. If the study results are promising, he expects community meetings will be held in Salida in mid-2013.
City and county officials have talked of holding an advisory vote on the annexation in Salida, but such a vote is one to three years away, said Marsh, who wants to pare down plans for thousands of homes in the Salida plan.
The mayor mentioned another reason to study the potential annexation. Modesto's general plan has included Salida since the 1990s, and a portion of the city's growth-related improvement costs originate from the Salida area.
If it's decided that Salida is not part of Modesto's future, officials could remove Salida from the city growth plan and scale down capital fees, Marsh said. "We need to answer that question for Modesto once and for all," he said.
Borges said an advisory vote on annexation would waste taxpayer funds because the county and city could ignore the outcome. She said she wants to gather signatures to put a binding measure on the ballot.
Another type of vote in Salida could be triggered if an annexation were to move through the process to the Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCo approval of the annexation would lead to a protest hearing, and a protest from 25 percent of registered voters in Salida would force an election, LAFCo Executive Officer Marjorie Blom said.
Voters would decide whether to approve or reject the annexation.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.