No one knows what a good deal on Mountain Water would look like

The view from Water Works hill—photo by Lido Vizutti

The view from Water Works hill—photo by Lido Vizutti

On Monday, the City Club of Missoula hosted a debate on the ongoing effort to purchase Mountain Water. For those of you who live out of town for some reason, Mountain Water is the local water utility, owned by the Carlyle Group. After Carlyle rebuffed its offer to buy, the city began pursuing condemnation by eminent domain, but it turns out the global asset management term has some tricky lawyers—possibly even trickier than those hired by the sleepy mountain town. We’ve already blown through our original $400,000 in estimated legal costs, and we’re not close to the end. The mounting costs of condemnation raise a question: how much can we spend to buy Mountain Water and still get a good deal? Surprisingly, neither city councilman present at Monday’s debate had an answer. They didn’t even have rough estimates. In this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, I humbly suggest that might be a problem. A plan to buy something at any cost is not a plan to get a good deal. Give it a read, and then right a series of comments about what an Obama I am. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!


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  1. Before setting a price on Mountain Water an agreement on how to purchase the company needs to be reached.
    Many Missoulians oppose to the heavy handed and budgetless tactic of condemnation. Beyond that is the question of this city’s ability to efficiently operate the utility.
    Up to this point the mayor and council members supporting condemnation have engaged in a range of misleading and histrionic statements. I’m also uncomfortable with the whiff of contempt for private enterprise.
    This condemnation was quickly launched with apparently little prior planning. A vigorous debate within the council prior to taking action would have healthy for the decision making process. it would probably lead to a better approach. But this council is essentially an echo chamber with several likeminded people agreeing with each other and voting as a block. Hertz is the only member to challenge the block’s ideas. That should be encouraged and expanded. No one questions the mayor’s assertions that there will be plenty of free cash flow once the business is owned by the city. That deserves some careful scrutiny and fact checking. this mayor has been wrong many times before. Especially when making financial projections. Based on his original statements of cost and timeline in this initiative, he grossly underestimated cost. I suspect he grossly overestimates free cash flow.
    Price? The Council seems comfortable leaving it open ended since its Other People’s Money. Missoula would be better served if that was challenged.
    For the record- I’m an Electrical Engineer, small business owner, and property owner. Born and raised in Missoula. Graduated from Sentinel same year mayor graduated from Hellgate.

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