Mayor John Engen and other city officials gathered together with interested citizens in the Missoula City Council Chambers on Tuesday night to provide an update and a progress report on the now city-owned Missoula Water.

Engen began with a prepared statement in which he gave his history of the condemnation lawsuit and how Missoula ended up owning what was once called Mountain Water.

Engen closed his remarks with the following statement:

“In the rear-view mirror, it’s become all too evident that the city of Missoula was in the midst of a creeping crisis,” said Engen. “A slow emergency that left unaddressed would lead to huge rate increases, a catastrophic failure of the system, the possible exporting of our precious water and an uncertain future. Our actions were controversial, but they put an end to an emergency, and if we had not pursued this acquisition with rigor, confidence and speed, I would have been negligent, irresponsible, and ultimately, a leader who failed his community in a time of trouble.”

After presentations by City Chief Administrative Officer Dale Bickell, City Councilor Bryan Von Lossberg and Missoula Water Superintendent Dennis Bowman, a question from the audience regarding the millions in legal fees from the utility’s acquisition was addressed by Mayor Engen, who had originally estimated that the total costs would not exceed $400,000.

“The mayor is not very good at estimating,” he began. “Robert Dove (of Carlyle Partners) made it clear that he would make it as expensive as possible for the city to acquire this system through condemnation, and they did their best to make good on that promise. Our responsibility was to meet that challenge head-on with our own attorneys. It was way more expensive than I ever anticipated, and I’ll own that all day long.”

The forum was presented by the League of Women Voters.

See the complete presentation courtesy of Missoula Community Access Television here.

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