Write it down: June 1, 2017, the day Mountain Water Co. became Missoula Water and a city of 70,000 wrested control of life's essential ingredient from greedy corporate investors.
The date-that-will-live-in-Missoula-history is a little more fluid than that. The transfer of keys was supposed to happen by May 31, but negotiations were bogged down. Not until June 1 did city council members, attorneys and Mayor John Engen meet again in council chambers to approve a settlement agreement that will allow for an orderly transfer of money and power. That transfer is to take place June 22, though even that date remains "necessarily tentative," Engen says.
At this point, the "when" isn't so big a deal. Only nine of 12 council members showed up for the settlement agreement vote—a sign, perhaps, of just how many "historic" moments have already graced Missoula's water condemnation saga. You might say it's been a slow drip.
All those drips, of course, have added up to something pretty momentous, and Engen mustered a more triumphalist tone at the June 1 meeting, comparing corporate owners of public water systems to slumlords who raise rents and get rich while letting their properties decay.
So how much did it cost to kick the slumlords to the curb? In addition to the $93.2 million price tag, the city is also on the hook for another $7.37 million, mostly to the attorneys who litigated the case. Just how the city has racked up such a large legal bill is unclear... hey, wait a second. Didn't city officials promise to cough up those receipts once the takeover was finalized?
Indeed they did. But City Attorney Jim Nugent says it's still "quite premature" to think about releasing that information because... the legal work isn't finished. Carlyle's property taxes, "interest earnings" and attorneys fees are all hanging fire. The city may finally take over management of its water in three weeks' time, but its legal bill may just keep flowing.
For how long? For the "immediate foreseeable future," Nugent says.
We'll just have a tall, cool glass of Missoula water while we wait.