SALIDA -- A newly formed group has renewed the call for Salida to become a self-governing city.
"A group of us want to see Salida incorporated and not annexed to Modesto," said Katherine Borges, a member of the Salida Municipal Advisory Council. "The only way to protect against being annexed is incorporation."
Borges said the 18-member group is forming a chamber of commerce to lead a campaign for cityhood. So far, it has a post office box and is drawing up bylaws.
With a population of 13,700, Salida is the largest unincorporated town in Stanislaus County and bigger than three of the county's nine cities. Hughson, in 1972, was the last community to become a city in Stanislaus County.
In the past 25 years, campaigns to create a city government for Salida have sprouted only to die on the vine. And the new campaign has doubters who say the community's meager tax base won't support city services.
Still, Borges and others say they need to give it shot.
"It depends on who is doing the numbers," said Lana Moore, who worked on a 1989 campaign and is helping to organize the chamber. "(In 1989), we looked at what businesses we had available to give us the financial support we needed for a city. We didn't nearly have the businesses then that we have now."
County leaders have said that city incorporation will be one of three options presented to Salidans at upcoming town hall meetings. The other two are staying in the county jurisdiction and becoming part of Modesto.
Borges said a local chamber of commerce spearheaded the effort to incorporate Ripon in 1945. She said a list obtained by her group shows that Salida has more taxpaying businesses than people think.
The 460 businesses include the stores and shops on Broadway Avenue in Salida's core, but also offices and vocational colleges on the east side of Highway 99, Boomers and adjacent industries off Sisk Road, churches, the school district office and in-home businesses.
Borges said it's a strong base for forming a chamber and more.
"There are 324 businesses in Waterford," she noted. "I can't fathom how a city like Waterford, which has less population and fewer businesses, can incorporate and Salida can't."
After the 1989 campaign fizzled, Salida residents came out to oppose a Modesto plan in 1996 to include Salida and the Wood Colony area in its "sphere of influence" for eventual annexation.
Another effort to incorporate got rolling in 2002 when the Salida MAC formed a committee to study it. A vocal group of residents supported the 3,400-acre Salida Now plan that received county approval in 2007 and was touted as a blueprint for the county's 10th city.
But the recession put the plan on hold.
The latest campaign expects it will need to raise $150,000 to pay for studies and fees related to incorporation. It needs to get 25 percent of registered voters to sign a petition before taking an application to the Local Agency Formation Commission.
LAFCo requires a $15,000 deposit for reviewing a required fiscal analysis, and the state controller asks for a $25,000 deposit to do the same. Also required are an environmental study, LAFCo approval and an election held within the proposed city.
After clearing those and other hurdles, Salida would need to elect a council and build service operations.
County Supervisor Terry Withrow said he is keeping an open mind about Salida's options. "I am not going to discourage them," he said. "Maybe that is where we end up."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.