The condemnation trial for Mountain Water Co. won't be postponed, even by a couple of months, according to a Missoula County District Court order issued this week.
"The Court acknowledges the complexity of this case, its importance and the extensive discovery disputes," Judge Karen Townsend wrote in an order Tuesday. "However, this case will be just as complex and contentious if it is held 12 months from the time of service as if it is held 10 months from the time of service."
This spring, the city of Missoula took Mountain Water Co. and owner The Carlyle Group to court to try to force the global equity firm to sell the utility to the city. In a recent motion, Mountain Water requested the court postpone the March 18, 2015, trial start date.
Mountain alleged it didn't have enough time to prepare for trial because the city was using stalling tactics. The city, on the other hand, blamed Mountain for trying to draw out the case to make it as expensive as possible for the city.
In her order, Townsend said Montana law "provides a statutory six-month default time for eminent domain actions from the time of service of summons to trial." It requires parties to "proceed as 'expeditiously as possible.'"
"The court denies Mountain Water's motion for a continuance," the judge wrote. "The March hearing date provided the parties 10 months from the service of the First Amended Complaint until the necessity hearing.
"Which is four months longer than contemplated by Mont. Code Ann. 70-30-202."
Plus, the parties already agreed to the date, the order said. The defendants still have more than one month for discovery and "nearly three months to prepare for trial."
"While the timelines in this case are undoubtedly demanding and difficult, they are necessary in light of Montana statutes and the prior agreement of the parties and will not be modified," the order said.
In another recent motion, Carlyle again asked the court to dismiss it from the proceeding, arguing it is not an owner of record in Montana, but merely the "upstream owner."
The matter is pending. Earlier, however, the court denied a similar request from Carlyle and dismissed its argument it should not be party to the eminent domain case.
In a separate venue, a Carlyle subsidiary, Mountain and a subsidiary of Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. are requesting a state agency approve the sale of Mountain to Algonquin's Liberty Utilities.
The Montana Public Service Commission has asked interested parties to file petitions to intervene no later than Jan. 12, 2015.