SANDPOINT — Sandpoint council members told Sagle representatives they will have to look elsewhere for water treatment services Wednesday night.
For the past several months, Sagle and Sandpoint officials have been seeking a hook-up into the town’s wastewater treatment plant with the ultimate goal of reducing nitrate levels in the regional aquifer. However, council members voted down a proposal by Tim Blankenship of the Sagle Valley Water and Sewer District out of concern that the agreement would encourage businesses and developers to take their interests outside the city limits.
“I have to respectfully disagree that there would be no cost to the city,” Councilman Aaron Qualls said. “I think there could be a great many costs.”
While the partnership would bring in its share of income through hook-up fees and monthly rates as the number of water users in Sagle increased, some council members and residents expressed concern that the deal would cost the city more than it benefited in lost business to the region. Council members pointed out that there are plenty of industrial and business spots in town waiting to be filled, and to devalue those areas by spreading city services too broadly could be detrimental. Former councilman Steve Lockwood said that a previous council had denied such a proposal for just that reason.
“This would be a short-term gain that would disadvantage people who have invested into this community for the long-term,” he said.
Others argued that the proposal ran contrary to the Sandpoint comprehensive plan, which emphasizes highly localized operations and discourages sprawl.
However, the decision to deny service wasn’t unanimous. Councilwoman Carrie Logan voted against the motion to deny service mostly because she felt she needed more time to fully assess the situation. However, she did point out that most available industrial space existed in the Northern Urban Renewal Area, which would impact the way such developments are taxed.
Councilman Justin Schuck also felt it was too early to deny the proposal outright. According to Blankenship, if Sandpoint service was out of the cards, the district could potentially pursue a relationship with Dover or construct its own infrastructure.
“If they are going to end up doing something, I would prefer that the funds to go to Sandpoint,” Schuck added.