Developer asks PSC to order Mountain Water to pay obligations

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

A Missoula developer is asking the Montana Public Service Commission to order Mountain Water Co. to refund contract obligations amounting to $3.39 million.

The Lloyd Twite Family Partnership, represented by attorney Robert Bell, filed its complaint with the PSC last week. With the city of Missoula’s condemnation hearing drawing to a close, the developer is seeking an emergency hearing before the commission to collect payments owed by Mountain Water.

“Mountain Water Co. is currently in default on its obligations to Twite,” the complaint reads. “Very soon, WMC will be an entity with no income-producing assets. Consequently, it’s important that this matter be resolved on an emergency basis by an expedited ruling.”

Mountain Water has not yet responded to the complaint.

According to the complaint, Twite requested water service to a new development in Linda Vista, located on the south side of Missoula. Twite advanced the funding to Mountain Water, which is subject to refunds totaling $3.39 million over time.

Twite said he’s owed several payments tied to different phases of his development. They currently include two payments totaling $137,204 for Phase 3, a payment of $16,318 for Phase 4A, and two payments totaling $39,094 for another portion of the project.

The complaint says Twite has worked with Mountain Water to collect the payments in hopes of not involving the PSC. However, he contends, those efforts have been unsuccessful.

“Twite has met all contractual obligations, and made all advances of funds and special facilities,” the complaint argues. “Mountain Water Co. has failed and expressly refused to initiate payments under the main extension and special facilities contracts.”

Bell said his client fears that once the city completes its acquisition of Mountain Water, the company will have no means by which to repay its obligations.

The issue is also before a District Court judge, who must decide who will pay a larger group of local developers roughly $22 million for investments made for Mountain Water in recent years.

The city believes the money is included in the $88.6 million it will pay to acquire the utility, though Mountain Water contends it’s in addition to the utility’s value.

Twite is asking the commission to order Mountain Water to pay the obligations he’s owed, including an immediate payment totaling $192,616. He’s also asking the PSC to order Mountain Water to issue refunds on a “going forward basis,” including a payment due on June 30, 2017, for $104,467.

Christopher Puyear, spokesman for the PSC, said the commission must first decide whether it will accept the complaint.

“They have to do that during a work session,” he said. “Their next couple of work sessions are booked out. I’d look at them looking at this complaint in the next couple of weeks.”

If the PSC accepts the complaint, Mountain Water will have 20 days to respond.

“You won’t see any kind of a hearing until that happens,” Puyear said.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com