There’s no library, no school, not even a post office anymore.
In fact, tiny Chatcolet’s only landmarks are its two businesses: the Parkline Supper Club and the Parkline Mobile Home Park.
“About the only thing the city does is gravel and oil the roads,” said city councilwoman Myrna Lindstrom. “We don’t even have a city sign with the population on it. Somebody knocked it down or stole it.”
“Some people didn’t even know we had a city,” said another councilwoman, Gretchen Presley.
So the City Council huddled this spring and decided to rename Chatcolet.
The new name?
“We’re just about out of Chatcolet city stationery,” said Lindstrom. “That’s one reason we decided to try and do it now.”
Chatcolet gets its name from Lake Chatcolet, which probably got its name from the Coeur d’Alene Indian word for “lake”: “chatq’ele.”
Like many other Idaho cities, Chatcolet was incorporated in the 1940s as a way for a local restaurant to get a liquor license. The city stretched along Benewah and Chatcolet lakes. On the east end was the Parkline Supper Club. On the west end: a cluster of summer cottages inside Heyburn State Park.
But last summer, Chatcolet officials tired of negotiating every road project and Dumpster with state park officials. The city voted to shrink to a more manageable size. Today, Chatcolet is miles from the lake it was named for.
Earlier this year, Chatcolet’s mayor and council members went door-to-door, canvassing the city’s 82 residents about the name change. Most agreed it was a good idea.
“When we went around and asked people what their opinion was, people said they always wondered why it was Chatcolet,” said Presley.
Since then, however, the city has discovered it takes more than a new sign and stationery to rename a city. But no one can tell them how much more.
For help, officials turned to the Association of Idaho Cities.
“We’re at a loss,” admitted association staffer Matt Hanzel. “I’m sure it’s been done, but we haven’t been able to identify a city that’s changed it’s name.”
The problem, he said, is that Idaho lawmakers never set up any procedure for changing city names. Without that so-called “enabling legislation,” he said, cities technically aren’t allowed to do it.
“That’s why our code books are 18 volumes thick,” Hanzel said. “Why can’t a city change its name if they want to?”
The city clerk, Deb Zimnicki, even called the city of Joe, Montana, seeking advice. But officials told her they only rename the city for a short time each year, and that it’s not really official.
“The lawyer’s been looking into it,” said Lindstrom. “We don’t know if we need an act of Congress or what.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo; Map of Chatcolet area