MISSOULA, Mont - After more than three years of negotiations and legal wrangling it took less than 40 minutes Thursday for the Missoula City Council to approve a settlement and a finance package in the Mountain Water case.
The votes put the last necessary pieces in place for the city to take possession of the water utility.
The settlement didn't come easy and the stakes were high.
In comments before Thursday's vote, Mayor John Engen pointed to a global trend, "the commoditization of water" and "a pattern of flipping utilities" for incredible profit. He used Missoula's water system as an example.
In 2010 The Carlyle Group, one of the world's largest investment firms, bought Mountain Water for about $150 million dollars. Five years later, Carlyle sold the system with a new price tag of $317 million.
Engen says, "There may not be villains in this tale, but there are victims." Carlyle made money for investors but left behind a system needing an investment of $100 million just to to bring it up to an industry standard.
The change of ownership puts Missoula in line with every other city and town in Montana. Until now all of them, with the exception of Missoula, owned and operated public water systems for the benefit of the citizens.
The city hopes to take possession of Mountain Water by the end of this month.