Montana Supreme Court Rules In Favor of City in Mountain Water Condemnation
In a 5-2 decision released Tuesday afternoon, the Montana Supreme Court has ruled that the City of Missoula was justified in forcing the sale of Mountain Water Company through the process of condemnation.
In a fight that lasted over a year and cost millions of dollars to both the city and Mountain Water, Carlyle Partners and the employees of Mountain Water, Mayor John Engen's vision of city ownership of the municipal water system is one step closer to reality.
The purchase price was set by the court at $88.6 million.
As part of the Synopsis of Opinion, the court stated that city ownership was 'more necessary' than that of a private company to retain ownership. Part of that opinion is below.
"The Montana Supreme Court held that the District Court’s factual finding that City ownership of the water system is more necessary than private ownership was supported in the record by substantial credible evidence.
That evidence included testimony about public support for condemnation; evidence about the condition of the water system and the implications of such a condition under public or private ownership; evidence regarding the City’s ability to effectively manage the water system if it were condemned; evidence from all parties about the financial considerations relating to owning and operating the water system, including administrative expenses, profit motive, rate setting, and the cost of acquisition and needed capital improvements; evidence about the effect of condemnation on the Mountain Water employees; and evidence concerning economic and public policy factors like coordination of water services with other municipal services, urban planning, environmental conservation, and public health, safety, and welfare."
The decision affirmed that of Missoula District Court Judge Karen Townsend, who ruled in favor of the city in June of 2015.
Mayor Engen sent the following note to members of the city council early Tuesday evening. :
"Thanks to the commitment of most of you and your predecessors, the public water system will be in public hands and operated by the trustees elected by citizens to make decisions on behalf of the community.
Because of public ownership, there will be more investment in infrastructure, maintenance and conservation than was possible under investor ownership.
We have much work to do in the wake of this affirmative decision, but we'll move quickly to bring the operations of the Missoula water system into the municipal organization. More information will follow in the next days, but in the meantime, thanks to those of you who have been relentlessly supportive of this important effort."
Mayor Engen will meet with the media in his office at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday to discuss the Supreme Court's decision.