Stories about water, eminent domain in Missoula, Carlyle


I’m linking to some stories related to the city of Missoula’s eminent domain case against Mountain Water Co. and The Carlyle Group.

1. Apple Valley Ranchos, part of Western Water Holdings along with Mountain Water Co. and Park Water Co., got word it can afford its own water.

2. The city of Missoula can bond up to $102.63 million for a water company, according to Barclays. Mayor John Engen said he isn’t interested in paying that much. The city offered $65 million for Mountain Water.

3. Mooresville, Indiana, drops its quest to condemn the local water company because it can’t afford the price set by a jury.

4. Carlyle dips in the third quarter of 2014 compared to 2013. Some mind boggling numbers here.

All for now. Monday, the Missoula City Council holds a public hearing on an ordinance that gives the administration authority to spend money in acquiring Mountain Water. The council had approved a similar ordinance a year ago, but before the city went to court.

- Keila Szpaller

Good reading on commissioner candidates, water

1. Here are Q&A’s with candidates for the Missoula Board of County Commissioner. Vicky Gordon, Republican. Nicole Rowley, Democrat. 

2.Here’s a report called “Navigating to New Shores: Seizing the Future for Sustainable and Resilient U.S. Freshwater Resources.” It landed in my email box yesterday, and I’ve only skimmed it. I keep wondering how the city of Missoula will make its case that municipal ownership of Mountain Water Co. is “more necessary” than private ownership. Maybe this report offers a hint.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller

Water stories from Detroit to Montecito, California, to Missoula

I have water stories for you.

1. This one from National Geographic, a great read about the abysmal, and some say “hopeful,” situation in Detroit, Michigan.

2. This one from The Telegraph about rich people paying boatloads of money for water in California. I wish I could h/t this one but I don’t remember where I saw it. Twitter, probably. Here’s a quote from one rich man in the story:

“It doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you run out of water you’re screwed. It’s a great leveller.

3. Finally, a story from the meeting here yesterday on eminent domain. The city’s lawyers from Boone Karlberg gave the Missoula City Council an update on the case and their findings. I should have said in the story that Mountain’s president was there, but didn’t comment, and didn’t return a VM after the meeting, and also that I wasn’t able to connect with the Montana PSC’s lawyer via email yesterday. We’ll see if they want to weigh in on things today.

- Keila Szpaller

Vote absentee in Missoula; I can’t believe it’s election season

Can people still get excited about an election with no president and no mayor on the ballot? At least there aren’t as many nasty TV ads this year.

The Missoula County Elections Office and MCAT put the video together. Show your friends. “Like” Missoula Votes on Facebook and follow @missoulavotes on Twitter.

Also, the Missoulian is sending questions out to candidates for Missoula County Commissioner. Please send question suggestions to

As a refresher, here’s what we asked in the primary:

What do you think the role of a Missoula County commissioner is and should be?


What are your top priorities for Missoula County? How would you work with other elected officials and county staff to implement that vision?


If you could change three things about Missoula County government, what would they be?


What should the county budget emphasize? Please name a specific item you would cut or add.


What is the most important thing a commissioner should do for rural Missoula?


What is the top thing a commissioner should do for urban Missoula?


Does Missoula County need a charter? Why or why not?


Missoula County has come under scrutiny of late for “picking on” constituents in the areas of planning and zoning. How would you balance the county’s regulatory responsibility with the need to work with citizens to find solutions to problems?


Would you make any changes or improvements to provide the public with more specific advance notice of public meetings or issues that will be addressed in commissioner meetings? If so, how, and on what platforms? Twitter, Facebook, print paper, legal ads, news releases, your county website? Other?


How would you balance the county’s needs to float general obligation bonds on the ballot against the needs of the city and schools to ensure fairness for all projects?

33,277, Swan Lake, downtown, a judgment levy in Missoula

Swan Lake

That’s the number of bicycles Mountain Line carried in 2013.

I saw the figure in a new magazine Mountain Line puts out called “Bolt Missoula.” Topher Williams gave me a copy at the event to celebrate the new “Green Stop” at Russell and 39th Streets.

If you didn’t know, the buses are going to be free starting in 2015, and the bus people estimate ridership is going to grow even faster than it already has.

Other news items of interest?

The city of Missoula is using a new judgment levy this year to pay for a lost lawsuit. It’ll probably use one again to pay for a similar lost suit in a South Avenue property takings case.

Also, the Forest Service Region 1 headquarters is moving out of downtown. This is a hit of some 230 people to the city center.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller

The Cheerful Tribune

chicken picI recently told some friends I was going to start my own newspaper with good news only. It would be called The Cheerful Tribune.

This came about because of all the awful news out there, important information, but sometimes draining to consume, like the hell in Ferguson, the people in Detroit who can’t get water, the other stories that sound like they’re from a third world country.

The Cheerful Tribune would be the antidote. Good news only! Weekly feature of what you like best about your dog! Stories of neighbors who alert neighbors to miscreants in their yard! People who know how to play the cello really well!

Alright. Are you sick to your stomach yet? I am, a little, but here at the Missoulian, we’re actually delving into a corner of Missoula that truly is turning out to have a lot of good news. Photographer Tom Bauer and I have been following the Youth Harvest crew of Garden City Harvest, and we’ve been running profiles of the crew members each week.

That’s Katelyn Cox in the photo with a runaway chicken who didn’t run fast enough. Here’s her profile, from last week.

You can meet Nate Charles here, and you can read about others, too. I just watched the video Tom Bauer produced of Charles, and I’m going to paste that right here, too. It’s a good one.

That’s all for now.


We’ll do cynical another time.

- Keila Szpaller

Missoula’s sewer rates lowest in the state

Story about public v. private utility rates here, with numbers from a 2014 survey by AE2S, an engineering firm based in North Dakota.

The survey also shows Mountain Water Co.’s rates are relatively high in Montana, according to cities that reported numbers this year. The survey doesn’t account for the different ways utilities handle capital costs.

Other news? The Missoula Independent has a story about Forward Montana’s upcoming 10-year anniversary and some of the successes it has claimed along the way.

Happy summer in Montana!

- Keila Szpaller

A cool exhibit downtown Missoula, and more


If you didn’t make it to First Friday but have an interest in the shows, check out “Urban Pop” at Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty, the Maddux Group.

In other news, a decision is delayed on the cleanup plan for the White Pine Sash site. That story here.

The North Missoula Community Development Corporation has retained a lawyer, and it has opened a legal defense fund to raise money for attorney’s fees. See the Crowdrise page here.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s Scott Graham talked with me about the agency’s decision-making process. It’s hard to understand how the DEQ comes to its final cleanup orders.

A ton of people have offered public comment. 

“We absolutely appreciate the input,” Graham said.

He stressed that point, and I tried to understand how the input would be taken into account. It’s not a popularity contest, but community acceptance is part of the equation.

Would comments from the neighborhood actually effect any change? Graham said he’s glad everyone is involved, and I told him people would be mad if they put so much energy into comment and were, in the end, ignored.

“We wouldn’t not do what they want without really good reason,” Graham said.

I asked him if one option might be the DEQ order the vacant portion of the property cleaned to residential standards – and the rest cleaned to commercial and industrial standards. A compromise, of sorts.

“To me, it seems like it might be reasonable. I don’t know. Again, we have to take a look at what’s the difference in the cost, which is part of it,” Graham said.

He also said technically, such a plan would be doable. However, acceptance by the parties involved is another matter.

That’s because other parts of the property – including a portion that belongs to the city of Missoula and is in use – aren’t cleaned to residential standards. So is there an equity issue if the DEQ demands different cleanup standards for different parts of the site?

I don’t think they actually talk about standards; they do reference future anticipated uses.

More on White Pine Sash? Check out this blog, where someone did an analysis of the public comments.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller

A post for Councilman Ed Childers

Councilman Childers wants more posts.

Here’s one.

I check in with once in a while, and here’s a story about the way S&P and Moody’s give cities credit ratings. The story suggests cities should get a Moody’s rating to be sure their scores aren’t inflated, and to people who aren’t Ed, Missoula uses both S&P and Moody’s. (Ed already knows this, and more, as a veteran council member and former longtime money man for the city of Missoula. Treasurer, maybe.)

Also, if you missed it, here’s my story about a smell that’s making some neighbors on the Northside and Westside feel nauseous. I’d like to find out more about what it means to deem a smell a “public nuisance.”

Now, a question: Do you know anyone who needs a dog? A one-eyed black lab named Thor needs a home. More here.

The dog reminds me: The other day, I walked up Waterworks with a friend, and we saw a bunch of cigarette butts under one of the trees. We used my friend’s Mutt Mitt to pick up the cigarette butts, and I fantasized propaganda headlines as a way to diffuse my anger.

“Council adopts ordinance banning smoking in parks and trails everywhere, instates strict penalties; public shows broad support for new rule as beneficial for lungs, environment.”

The butts were annoying, but they also reminded me of running through the Orange Street underpass soon after someone smoked a cigarette in it and inhaling a bunch of second hand smoke. OK, enough on that. Enough.

But one last thing: If you’re on Instagram, follow @missoulian because there’s wonderful photos posted.

I’ll do another post for the councilman later about transportation, and it’ll be great.

Happy Friday.

- Keila Szpaller