MTPR

John Engen

Mountain Water Company, Missoula, MT.
Cheri Trusler

The city of Missoula has taken ownership of the water utility that serves its residents after a three-year court battle. 

The city bought Mountain Water Company for $84 million and paid another $6.8 million to developers who had a claim against the company. A separate bundle of transition costs, the bulk of which are attorneys’ fees, amounts to $7.5 million.

Mountain Water Company, Missoula, MT.
Cheri Trusler

A judge has ordered the former owner of Mountain Water Company to recalculate the attorney's fees it is seeking after losing a condemnation case and being forced to sell the water company to the City of Missoula.

Missoula Mayor John Engen:

"It reduces the overall cost of the city acquiring the system. We’re talking millions of dollars, yeah."

Missoula Mayor John Engen, Interim UM President Sheila Stearns, Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss, and Missoulian Editor Kathy Best at a City Club meeting in Missoula March 13, 2017
Edward O'Brien

Missoula Mayor John Engen says District Judge Karen Townsend has again ruled in favor of the city in its effort to acquire the local municipal water company.

Engen says Townsend ruled the entities that fought the city’s use of eminent domain to acquire Mountain Water Company were overcharging for legal services and fees:

A package of bills aimed at addressing youth suicide in Montana is working its way through the legislature.
File Photo (PD)

Western Montana’s major suicide prevention collaborative re-launched under a new name today.

Project Tomorrow Montana is the successor of the Western Montana Suicide Prevention Initiative which was founded in 2014. It operates under the auspices of United Way. The group of nonprofits, businesses, educational and public-sector leaders wanted to reduce Montana’s high suicide rate.

Two years later, it’s still high — double the national average — and shows little sign of subsiding.

Mountain Water Company.
Cherie Trusler

Missoula Mayor John Engen received an important email a little after 5 o’clock  Tuesday afternoon. It was from Harry Schneider.

"When we win, Harry always says the same thing in all caps: ‘BINGO’. So I open the thing up and it was a ‘BINGO’."

The Wah Yan College Kowloon Boys’ Choir sings during Out to Lunch in Missoula, July 13, 2016.
Mike Albans

"One of the choir members we [hosted] had said that they would never, ever allow anyone to say anything against the United States of America after coming to this."

That’s Karen Somerset, talking about the International Choral Festival, a four-day celebration of singing and culture that happens in Missoula every three years. This is Festival week and Karen and her husband, Ray, are hosting people from Poland.

The Montana Supreme Court hears arguments April, 22 2016 over the eminent domain case involving Mountain Water Company in Missoula.
Bree Zender

Montana’s Supreme Court today heard arguments in a case that will determine the future of Missoula’s water utility. The City of Missoula first tried to take ownership of Mountain Water Company by condemnation in the 1980s. Its current attempt that the court is now considering started in 2013.

Two of the estimated 800-plus who turned out for a March 1, 2016 rally in Missoula in support of refugee resettlement.
Josh Burnham

The national debate over Syrian refugee resettlement in the U.S. has struck a nerve in Montana. It’s been playing out over the past month as rallies both for and against the potential resettlement of refugees in the state have been trading off locations and attempting to out voice one another.

State Department of Transportation Director Mike Tooley and Governor Steve Bullock announce the expedited construction schedule for the Madison Street bridge in Missoula.
Josh Burnham

Work on Missoula's crumbling Madison Street bridge will begin sooner than expected. Replacement of the bridge deck, originally planned to begin in 2020, is now slated to begin mid-June of this year, with a target completion date of August 2017.

The group "Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense" rallies in Missoula, MT for stronger gun laws, Dec. 14, 2015.
Josh Burnham

The group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held a rally on the courthouse lawn in Missoula Sunday to commemorate the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting and advocate for stronger gun laws. They were joined by about a dozen open-carry advocates – some with rifles slung over their shoulders – showing support for the second amendment, and self defense via firearms.

UM President Royce Engstrom speaks about UM's handling of sexual assaults at a July 10 press conference in Missoula, MT.
Eric Whitney - MTPR

The University of Montana Police Department has met federal requirements to improve its response to reports of sexual assault on campus.

The University agreed to the requirements two years ago, following a 2012 investigation into reports of sexual assaults at the school by the U.S. Departments of Justice, and Education.

Mountain Water Company, Missoula, MT.
Cheri Trusler

Missoula's mayor says he's glad a judge agrees with the city that public ownership of the local water utility is better than private ownership. But John Engen says there’s still a lot of work to be done , not the least of which is determining a fair price for Mountain Water Company.

Police Stepping Up Patrols For Saint Patrick's Day
Cheri Trusler

A new audit shows Missoula is doing a better job of responding to reports of sexual assault. That same audit also says there's room for improvement.

Mountain Water Company, Missoula, MT.
Cheri Trusler

Closing arguments were heard Monday in the condemnation trail for the City of Missoula’s water system.

The city has been trying to buy the privately-owned Mountain Water Company since 2011.

Mountain Water Company, Missoula, MT.
Cheri Trusler

Attorneys presented their opening arguments today in the city of Missoula’s lawsuit to force the sale of its water utility from current owners, Mountain Water Company and the Carlyle Group. The city filed the suit nearly a year ago, claiming it's in the best interest of Missoulians for the city to operate it instead of a private company.

Courtesy photo

Media outlets including Montana Public Radio earlier reported that the legal bill for the City of Missoula in its condemnation action against Mountain Water Company had reached $3.5 million. Missoula Mayor John Engen says that number is not accurate.
 

Mountain Water Company has maintained throughout the condemnation proceedings that the city is better off leaving its water supply to the private sector, and that money being spent on condemnation would better be directed to more pressing municipal needs.
 

The Missoula City Council may vote tonight on a proposal that would allow the mayor to continue his effort to force the sale of the local water company to the city.

The Carlyle Group currently owns Mountain Water Company. A Canadian firm, Algonquin Power,  has entered into an agreement to purchase Mountain Water and its California based parent company for $327 million.

The city's attempt to use eminent domain to take ownership of Mountain Water has proven to be costly and raised a few eyebrows.

Courtesy photo

The employees of Missoula’s privately-owned Mountain Water Company today asked the city to give up its quest to buy the company via condemnation.

Missoula Mayor John Engen says the city won’t abandon its efforts to buy Mountain Water.

Eric Whitney

Missoula Mayor John Engen says he understands Algonquin's intent in buying Mountain Water, but he's not convinced the company can actually buy it, given the city's attempts to take ownership by condemnation from The Carlyle Group. Engen spoke at a press conference in his office this morning after meeting with Algonquin's CEO.

Danny Dauterive

Montana Public Radio’s Edward O’Brien sat down with Algonquin Power and Utilities CEO Ian Robertson. Robertson says "we would like to be part of the Montana utility landscape forever."

Edward O'Brien

It looks like Missoula's city water system could be sold to a Canadian company.

Liberty Utilities, a subsidiary of Algonquin Power & Utilities, has reached an agreement with The Carlyle Group, which currently owns Missoula's water system.

Algonquin is expected to pay an estimated $327 million for Missoula's system and three other utilities. That price includes assumption of about $77 million of existing long-term debt.

Montana Dignitaries Break Ground On Missoula College Site

Aug 22, 2014
Christopher Allen

On a blustery, rainy afternoon, several Montana dignitaries gathered just offshore of the Clark Fork River today to officially break ground on construction of the Missoula College’s new site.

Officials expect construction of the $32 million project to last about two years, after nearly eight years of planning and some controversy. College officials considered several other sites, including the 90-year-old university golf course, before funding complications and public protest forced them to look elsewhere.

Missoula and the southern California town of Apple Valley are separated by over 11-hundred miles, but both have at least one thing in common; officials from both towns want their local water systems under public ownership.

Leaders from both communities met earlier this week in Missoula to discuss ways to do just that.

Apple Valley's water system is owned and operated by Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company. In Missoula, it's Mountain Water Company.

Edward O'Brien

A second grade exercise in persuasive letter writing led to an official reminder from Missoula authorities today: leash your dogs and - oh yeah - don't forget to pick up their poop, too.

Edward O'Brien has more:

Sally Mauk

The city of Missoula has filed to obtain its privately owned water system through eminent domain. The complaint was filed in District Court. The city has been trying to negotiate a purchase of the Mountain Water company from its owner, the Carlyle Group, but has not been able to reach agreement. Missoula is the only major Montana city not to own its water system, and Mayor John Engen says it's in the public's best interest to control its water. He says the current owner is only interested in profit and has not been a good steward of the water system.

State lawmakers are asking what rights local governments have to charge fees to megaload shipments moving through Montana cities and towns.

These vehicles carry enormous pieces of equipment, blocking traffic as they haul their freight often to the tar sands of Canada or the Bakken oil patch.

The legislature’s Revenue and Transportation Interim committee inquired into the fees Tuesday.

Capitol Reporter Dan Boyce says the city of Missoula began charging them a few years ago. 

Courtesy photo

A public hearing will be held later this month before the Missoula City Council on a proposed ordinance that would give Mayor John Engen authority to open negotiations with The Carlyle Group to purchase Mountain Water Company.

Carlyle, a global alternative asset manager, purchased Mountain Water about two years ago, with the stipulation the city of Missoula would get the first shot at buying the utility if it ever went up for sale.

In this feature interview with Edward O'Brien, Engen explains why he thinks it's important to pursue this discussion - and why now.

City of Missoula

When it comes to fireworks there doesn't seem to be lots of middle ground; you either love them or would be quite pleased if you never heard or saw one again in your life.