Lawsuit For Mountain Water Co. Could Cost City $800K - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Lawsuit For Mountain Water Co. Could Cost City $800K

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The City of Missoula's lawsuit to buy Mountain Water Company from its current owner could cost more than $800,000. Now, Mountain Water Company's owner, the Carlyle Group, is speaking out, saying an expensive lawsuit is unnecessary.

In a statement, Carlyle spokesman, Christopher Ullman, said, "We are disappointed the city has chosen this unnecessary, unjustified and expensive route."

The lawsuit could cost the city more than $800,000 per year, but Mayor John Engen says the price will be worth it in the long run.

"Right now it's run by investors who have no interest in if the water's clean and how the company is maintained. What they're interested in is making money," Engen said.

In the city's complaint, it argues water customers are currently paying global investors with no interest in Missoula and its water. In 2011, the Carlyle Group acquired Mountain Water's parent company, Park Water Company and all of its assets. The complaint shows in the 2013 fiscal year, the Carlyle Group's three founders earned $750 million, that's more than about $133,000 each per hour, a portion of that coming from Mountain Water Company.

"We don't need to make money at the city of Missoula we need to prepay our costs and invest in the system and that's what we intend to do," Engen said.

For now, the firm said it plans to keep it's ownership of Mountain Water. In the statement, Ullman said, "however long this process takes, Mountain Water will continue to provide the people of Missoula with the best quality water and service possible. We will vigorously defend our property rights against an unnecessary taking."

The case now goes to a judge. If a judge approves the city's request, a value will be set for the city to pay the Carlyle Group. Right now, the $800,000 is just an estimate. The city is still unsure how much the entire legal process will take.



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