Missoula Mayor Jon Engen asked the city council on Wednesday afternoon, September 25, for a public hearing to enact an ordinance for the purpose of purchasing the Mountain Water Company from the Carlyle Infrastructure Group.

Engen read a lengthy report into the public record detailing the reasons why he believes the city must purchase the water system. He asked the city council to allow him to begin the process with an ordinance, followed by negotiations, and then an offer by the city to purchase the water system, and if necessary, condemnation.

"I believe the future of a city like ours is largely dependent upon water, and control of that resource ought to be ours," Engen said. "I think the time is right, and that we can buy the company at a reasonable rate, and in the long term preserve and sustain the system, and take better care of it than a multinational hedge fund can."

Engen said the system now leaks about 40 percent of the water running through its pipes, and there may be other problems, as well.

"There may be a lot of other problems that we don't know about yet," Engen said. "Frankly, when Carlyle bought it, they didn't do a lot of due diligence, because this is something they just buy and sell. We want to buy and keep, so we want to know what we're getting into. Provided the ordinance passes, we will be paying an engineering firm to check the system from soup to nuts to let us know how it operates."

The majority of the committee of the whole voted by voice to approve setting the public hearing for October 21.

Missoula Mayor Jon Engen: