Mayor – Staff Already Making Plans For Mountain Water Takeover
Fresh off the city's victory after the Montana Supreme Court decision allowing the takeover of the Mountain Water Company, plans are already underway for what the city hopes will be a smooth transition.
Mayor John Engen spoke to reporters in his office on Wednesday morning and said the process has already begun.
"We have been actively engaged in making sure our financing was in place, making sure of some management issues and software issues, we are ready to go," Engen said. "We need to have some internal conversations about the technicalities on the final order of condemnation and motion to take possession, and our intention is to do that as quickly as we can."
Attorney Natasha Jones was asked if an appeal from Mountain Water to the U.S. Supreme Court might be coming.
"Technically, the defendants have the opportunity to file a writ with the United States Supreme Court, but that's a decision that they'll have to make," Jones said. "The statistical chances of the U.S. Supreme Court accepting that appeal are very low, but it certainly is their right to do that."
Engen said even if there was an appeal, the process of the takeover would continue.
"Unless there was a stay, we would continue to take possession based on the actions of the Montana Supreme Court," he said. "The price determined by the valuation commission was $88.6 million dollars. We have financing in place to not only pay that bill but we'll be able to be in business almost immediately. Our bank was waiting for the court's decision, and with that decision, they're ready to write a check."
Engen was asked about the over $10 million in court costs incurred during the lawsuit.
"All of the expenses involve in this acquisition to date will be folded into the utility," he said. "Our models have accounted for that, and even with those costs, we still maintain rates, we still pay debt service, we operate the business and we invest the capital."
Engen reached out to current Mountain Water employees.
"We have a bunch of Mountain Water employees who we hope will come and join us," he continued. "I have never had a problem with Mountain Water employees. I have had a problem with corporate ownership from afar, and long after I am gone, there will be trusted people elected by the people, who will be here to run this thing."
Engen was asked if there would be any retribution for negative comments by current Mountain Water employees once the takeover is complete.
"One of my heroes in this world is Abraham Lincoln," Engen mused, "As I told staff and attorneys at a meeting yesterday, we are now Lincoln, this is about making it work. With malice towards none. We need to get together and get some work done."