California Touts ‘Heroic’ Takeover of Municipal Water System
On Monday, Missoula Mayor John Engen was the guest of ‘Public Water Now’, an organization fighting to take control of their own municipal water system in Monterrey, California.
His appearance was entitled ‘The Heroic Story of how Missoula took their Water Public’, or ‘David vs. Goliath - How Missoula Took their Water Public’.
Engen relayed from the city of Missoula’s perspective, how he, the Missoula City Council and their attorneys were able to wrest ownership of what was known as the Mountain Water Company from Carlyle Partners through the process of condemnation.
At the conclusion of his appearance, Engen said his actions were not universally supported by Missoulians.
“In Missoula Montana, we don’t have everything right,” said Engen in his familiar self-deprecating style. “And, if you Google me, you might find that I don’t have a 100 percent fan base (laughter). If I did, I’d be in trouble for a variety of other reasons, but the fact of the matter is that nobody’s perfect.”
Engen went on to emphasize his view of how vital it was for the city to take the step of forcing the sale of the water system.
“This was absolutely necessary for the health and well-being of our community and for generations to come,” he said. “While some of our circumstances are different, the fact of the matter is that I would much rather have an essential element of life in the hands of a neighbor I have elected who is accountable to me than I would an investor that doesn’t know where in the hell on the planet Missoula, Montana is, but for the fact that it’s a cash cow.”
The final price tag for the city to purchase the water system was $93.2 million, which includes nearly $10 million in legal fees.
The Missoula City Council approved a bond issue for $140 million. The total loan request included $88 million for the sale of the utility itself, $13 million in legal costs, the total acquisition cost is $110 million and with associated costs the total came to $140 million.