City Asks Judge To Set Trial In 6 Months For Water Ruling - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

City Asks Judge To Set Trial In 6 Months For Water Ruling

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MISSOULA -

The City of Missoula filed a lawsuit asking a District Court judge to allow the city to acquire Mountain Water Company by eminent domain. This means a judge will now decide who gets ownership of the water facility.

Missoula is the only major city in Montana that does not own and operate its water supply,  and the city is ready to take legal action.

"We want to be in a situation where that precious resource is owner by the public who enjoys it," Mayor Engen said.

The city filed a complaint Tuesday, asking a judge to allow it to buy Mountain Water through eminent domain.

"What that means for the city is we are in court and we are going to plead to a judge that there is public necessity around owning the water utility," Engen said.

Mountain Water is currently owned by the California- based, Park Water Company. Park Water and all of its assets belong to the global investment firm, the Carlyle Infrastructure Partners. Carlyle is responsible for any sale dealing with Mountain Water, but Mayor Engen said it's time that changes.

"'The Carlyle Group, has investors from around the world, very far from Missoula, who probably don't even know where Missoula is," Engen said.

Under state law, the city can acquire and operate a water supply for public use, either by negotiated purchase or through eminent domain. Carlyle has so far turned down all of the city's offers, so the city is making taking the case to a judge to ensure it has a shot at buying the facility.

"We don't think we have an agreement that gives us the kind of comfort we need in moving forward, that Carlyle will come to the table to negotiate with us," Engen said.

He said if the city owned Mountain Water, it would keep $2 million annually, which is currently sent to Park Water.

"This is our way of getting them to the table, or through legal means that we have a seat at the table, and can purchase the facility," Engen said.

If a judge approves the request, a committee will be set a value for the city to pay Park Water Company.

We tried reaching out to the Carlyle Group, and Park Water Company but they have not responded. Mayor Engen said so he has no timeline on the eminent domain process. The complaint asks a hearing be set within the next six months.

 

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