A Carlyle Group spokesman has confirmed for NBC Montana that the current owner of Mountain Water has received a written offer from Missoula to buy Mountain water and that they are considering the offer.
“We will respond in the time requested by the mayor,” said the spokesman.
On Monday the Missoula City Council had given Mayor John Engen the go-ahead to offer Carlyle $50 million for Mountain Water.
In a draft letter, Engen gives Carlyle until February 4 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time to respond, or it will “constitute a rejection of the City’s offer for purposes of Montana law governing condemnation proceedings.”
On Tuesday, NBC Montana sat down with attorney Quinten Rhoades, of Sullivan, Tabaracci & Rhoades, to discuss how condemnation works. Rhaodes’ firm has worked on condemnation cases in the past.
“[What] that really means is the taking by the government of private property for public purposes,” said Rhaodes.
Rhoades explained that a government would first try to negotiate a price with a private entity for a piece of property.
“The property owner has the opportunity to refuse those overtures, the negotiation, and say that 'I dont believe this is necessary for the public good' or, in the alternative, 'I don't believe you're offering me fair market value,’” said Rhoades.
Rhoades explained that a government could file a lawsuit, and attempt to prove in court that it would be the public necessity to acquire what it seeks, and put it in the public’s hands.
Rhoades says discussion of a fair market value is what typically makes up most of a lengthy condemnation court battle, rather than necessity, which is in the hands of a judge rather than a jury.
“There’s no such thing as a short court battle,” said Rhoades. He also pointed out that when a government loses out, it has to pay attorney fees.
In a memo to City Council, Engen wrote: “Condemnation is serious business and I’m not leading us down this path lightly. I believe, in the public interest, I’m required to pursue this method because of what’s at stake: rights to Missoula’s water and its distribution.”
He added that “…without deliberate, swift action, Missoula will continue to be the only major city in the state of Montana beholden to a private company for a glass of water or a hot shower.”