- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - The city of Missoula is seeking control of the water supply and distribution company that serves its residents.

Missoula filed for condemnation of Mountain Water Co. in District Court on Wednesday, seeking to use its power of eminent domain to acquire the system from its owner, the Carlyle Group.

City leaders have tried to purchase the water system, but the city’s $50 million offer was rejected in January.

State law authorizes the city to acquire and operate a water system for public use, by either negotiating a purchase or through its power of eminent domain.

Mayor John Engen said it’s in the best interest of Missoula residents for the city to own the water system and run it as a public utility, without seeking to turn a profit.

“Public ownership ensures that the people have access to and control over our clean and abundant water,” Engen said Wednesday. “This water system will be for sale and the city should be the buyer.”

If a judge agrees condemnation is warranted, the judge would set a fair purchase price.

A purchase by the city will save ratepayers the $2 million that is annually sent to Park Water Co. of California, the parent company of Mountain Water, Engen said.

Missoula is the only major city in the state that does not own and operate its water supply and distribution systems.