On Wednesday, September 25, Missoula Mayor Jon Engen asked the Missoula City Council for an ordinance to begin the process of purchasing Mountain Water, through negotiations, or through the process of condemnation.

On Friday, September 27, Public Service Commissioner Bob Lake cautioned Mayor Engen about the use of the condemnation process, also referred to as eminent domain.

"Owning the Mountain Water Company would be nice," Lake said. "However, the condemnation process is a different game. When I was in the legislature, we had the eminent domain issue come through and it was vigorously discussed. To use eminent domain simply because we really want to own something is not a good enough argument to go out and use the process to take the property away from the current owner."

Lake said the seller must be a willing participant in the process.

"When you don't have a willing seller and you try to do condemnation, we have a lot of laws on the books to protect the property owner," Lake said. "Even though the government agency would like to have the property, laws just won't let it happen that way, unless there really is a public need and the possibility of public gain because of it."

Public Service Commissioner Bob Lake: