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Mountain Water Employees Ask Mayor To Stop Condemnation Attempt

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.

A press release from the law firm representing Mountain Water’s workers also says all 37 water company employees have rejected the city’s offer to employ them if condemnation is successful. It says "they prefer to work for an experienced water system owner that treats them with trust and respect."

A statement from Engen, who is on vacation, says, "There appears to be plenty of misunderstanding, and much of the city’s commitment to employees has been lost in translation through court briefs and legal correspondence."

In September the City of Missoula asked Mountain Water employees to sign an employment agreement that would guarantee most of them their jobs at the salaries they were making when the city launched it’s condemnation action. It asked workers to sign by October 13th.

Today, the law firm representing the workers says none of them signed the agreement, and accused the city of showing "wanton disregard for the fact that they are organized, by demanding that employees individually sign the employment agreement, and by singling out individual members of the employee group in filings."

Engen says he’s happy to meet with the employees to clear up confusion and answer all their questions and concerns. He says the city wants Mountain Water employees to work with it, and that he’s happy to negotiate.

Engen says he "remain(s) committed to public ownership of the water utility for all citizens of Missoula."

Engen launched the city’s effort to buy Mountain water via condemnation in April. The company’s current owner is fighting that, and a trial is scheduled for March of 2015.

Mountain Water employees letter to Mayor Engen

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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