Missoula Mayor Meets With Algonquin CEO
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.
"There is no way for this deal to close without these folks dealing with the City of Missoula."
"Without being an attorney, I am going to assert that there is no way for this deal to close without these folks dealing with the City of Missoula," Engen said. "The court has assumed jurisdiction by virtue of eminent domain, and to my reading of the entire situation, it is about a court in Missoula, Montana deciding a matter of law with regard to ownership. And if someone else wants to own it, I’m not sure how they do that."
Engen says answers to the questions about who can or cannot own Missoula Mountain Water should be resolved this spring.
"There’s a trial in March, which will happen long before these folks are suggesting they can consummate a deal," Engen said. "They said they’re going to try to get this done sometime late 2015. We’re going to be in court in spring of 2015, and we ought to know a lot about how this is going to shake out at that point."
Also unknown at this point is how much Missoula will have to spend on attorneys fees in its attempt to buy Mountain Water through condemnation. The city has so far spent more than half a million dollars on its condemnation case against Carlyle. Engen says he doesn't think Algonquin entering the mix should increase Missoula's legal expenses.
"Today we don't think so. We don't have a reason to believe that's the case, but everything seems to result in a higher legal cost for the city. It is an unfortunate and necessary piece of this puzzle."
Engen says the costs are necessary because Missoula will be better off if its water system is owned by the city and not a for-profit company. He says private companies are ultimately motivated by profit, and the city is focused on customer service at the lowest possible cost.