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Judge hears closing arguments in Missoula's effort to buy water system that serves the city

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MISSOULA, Montana — A judge on Monday heard closing arguments in the city of Missoula's effort to buy the water company that serves its residents.

District Judge Karen Townsend heard 11 days of testimony and said she will take the case under advisement. The city argues it could run the municipal water system for $6.9 million less per year than Mountain Water Co.'s current owners, The Carlyle Group.

Harry Schneider, an attorney for the city, ended closing arguments by saying a leakage rate of 8,000 gallons a minute would more than fill the University of Montana's Washington-Grizzly Stadium in a year.

"That's a lot of water," he said.

But those testifying on behalf of The Carlyle Group argued the city can't afford to run the system and noted that the city's management of its sewer system has resulted in numerous violations.

Attorney Joe Conner argued that if the city buys Mountain Water Co. for $126 million, customer rates will increase about 25 percent. He added that a financial adviser for Missoula will earn $1.75 million if the city wins in court and buys the water utility.

"He gets nothing if this fails," Conner said.

The Missoulian reported (http://bit.ly/1ICTvYi ) that the judge is being asked to decide if public ownership of the water utility is "more necessary" than private ownership. If she finds the city should own the utility, there will be a separate court proceeding to determine the price.

Judge Townsend asked both parties to file final briefs in two weeks.


Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com

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