Coeur d'Alene wants to keep its water to itself.
The city Public Works Committee voted unanimously on Monday to recommend the City Council not approve selling water outside its limits to the city of Huetter.
"It takes away from future expenses," said Al Hassell, one of the three council members on the Public Works Committee. "We have to bring our sewer treatment plant up to code. Giving service outside our boundaries, that's less we can do inside our boundaries."
The city of Huetter recently asked Coeur d'Alene to consider the feasibility of selling water wholesale to up to 200 households in the small municipality to the northwest.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Equality recently dubbed Huetter's small well and reservoir, the city's only water resource, as below state standards and in need of upgrade, said Larry Comer of Welch-Comer Engineers, speaking for the city of Huetter.
Welch-Comer is currently conducting a study on possible improvements, which include buying wholesale from Coeur d'Alene.
"We're looking at all reasonable options," Comer said.
Such an agreement would require a single master meter connection between the two cities. Huetter would bill its own internal customers and then pay Coeur d'Alene each month, according to a letter Comer sent to Coeur d'Alene.
The Lake City has enough water to accommodate Huetter, said Jim Markley, Coeur d'Alene water superintendent, before the meeting.
"It doesn't create a huge load on our system," Markley said. "We can absorb those extra customers."
He pointed out to the committee members, however, that it is against city requirements to sell water outside its borders, and the council would have to create a new exception to do so.
"The biggest point to make is that's one of our growth tools, not extending outside city lines," Markley said.
How much Huetter would be charged would be hammered out if an agreement was approved, Markley said.
Hassell was dubious of the proposal to provide water for up to 200 households, even though Huetter has only 66 water users now.
"Why would we want to (burden) our capacity to help another city expand?" he said.
Council member Woody McEvers said it helps a city's independence to have its own water source.
"Just what makes us a city is our sewer and water," he said. "I'm all about helping, but they need to step up and drill a hole."
The city of Coeur d'Alene already has enough issues to face on its own without providing water for another city, said council member Deanna Goodlander.
"We've already got some issues with our own sewer that are pretty significant, like TMDLs," she said.
Warren Wilson, deputy city attorney, also worried about the permanence of the agreement.
He pointed out that if problems arise, the two cities could have difficulty negotiating a solution.
"It's not a very viable solution for Coeur d'Alene to just turn off their water," Wilson said.
Comer said that Huetter, which is simultaneously studying how to improve its sewer system, could also turn to drilling another well to meet DEQ standards.
The only letdown, Comer said, is that cooperation from Coeur d'Alene could have helped Huetter receive grants for its sewer and water improvements. Huetter passed a $500,000 bond for those several years ago, he said, but it won't be enough.
"I would say funding agencies prefer a regional solution, when neighboring cities cooperate on a solution," he said.