Missoula Current

The Montana Public Service Commission on Friday released the details of a $150,000 settlement with Mountain Water Co., saying the money will go to the Missoula Human Resource Council to help low-income households upgrade failing water lines.

Initially approved in early July, the settlement follows the PCS's January decision to seek fines in Montana District Court for the unauthorized sale and transfer of Mountain Water.

The $150,000 payment will bolster the Homeowner Rehab and Repair Loan Program – a low-income assistance program managed by the Missoula Human Resource Council.

The settlement money will be used to provide low-rate loans for low-income households, enabling them to upgrade dilapidated water lines and install meters while also reducing water usage and costs.

“I’m very satisfied that the Commission’s settlement with Mountain Water directs much needed resources to a quality organization in the community rather than to the state coffers in Helena,” said PSC Commissioner Bob Lake, R- Hamilton. “Those that are most in need will experience a direct benefit from this payment by reducing the financial burden of low-income water customers.”

Under the agreement, the Human Resource Council will only distribute the funds from the authorized payment within Mountain Water’s existing service territory. It will also administer the funds through its existing Homeowner Rehab and Repair Loan Program for ratepayer owned water system improvements.

According to the PSC, at least 97 percent of the $150,000 payment from Mountain Water will be directly used to assist qualifying individuals with the cost of improving the ratepayer water system.

The payment from Mountain Water represents the statutory maximum fines the company would have paid if the PSC’s complaint had gone forward in court. The money will come from company profits, not from ratepayers.

The loan program funded by the settlement will continue after the city of Missoula takes over ownership of the water system.