Palosaari running for Houghton County Board

CHASSELL – Tim Palosaari is seeking re-election for a third term on the Houghton County Board of Commissioners.

Palosaari, a Republican, is running against Democrat George Rajala in District 5, which covers Chassell, Duncan, Elm River, Laird, Portage and Stanton townships.

Palosaari has been in carpentry most of his life. A former co-owner of DP Construction, he bought Ed’s Used Parts. He still owns a storage facility in Dollar Bay.

Palosaari said his philosophy in government is “the less the government does, the better off the people are.”

He was inspired to run by seeing things going on in the county with which he disagreed. In the case of the county transfer station, he questioned whether a government entity should be competing with the private sector.

“I still believe if Great American or some other disposal company had come in and competed with Waste Management, as far as the taxpayers, we’d be better off,” he said. “You need competition in any business, and competition is good.”

Palosaari does think the county should remain involved with the medical care facility. Another person on the board had looked into making the facility for profit, Palosaari said, but that discussion had never gone anywhere.

“I asked them to take less millage,” he said. “I didn’t ask them to close it down, I didn’t ask any of that.”

The facility currently receives 2.55 mills; a six-year renewal will be on the ballot in August. Palosaari had proposed a reduced millage of 1.5 mills for two years. He questioned the need for the facility’s level of savings, which he said was at more than $1 million a year.

“The basic guideline is 25 percent of your annual revenue,” he said. “They’re at $20 to $22 million in savings. They should be at $5 million in savings. They’ve got $20 million-plus, and I don’t agree with that.”

In general, Palosaari said, he would like to see boards look less to millages for improvements and set aside money. He also supported Chassell Township’s movement to withdraw from the Portage Lake District Library, saying most of the residents to whom he spoke preferred the choice of paying membership dues.

The county board has been looking at ways to address the need for a new roof at the Houghton County Arena. Palosaari said a millage would be unlikely to pass. Instead, he said, the users should fund it through higher rates.

“I think the people using the ice now, they need to up the rates and start a maintenance fund so they can start setting money aside for a new roof or all these maintenance issues that come up,” he said. “Even if it’s $20,000 or $10,000 a year set aside for maintenance, they would have the money right now.”

For board accomplishments during his tenure, Palosaari likes that the county put a regular budget in for maintenance of the county courthouse. While he doesn’t like the idea of having to spend more on the jail, Palosaari said it will be necessary. But remodeling the existing building and adding on will be cheaper and create more efficiency, he said. The county board is meeting with an engineer to come up with basic guidelines of what could be done.

“It’s nothing to do with the inmates – I’d like to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible, but the people that work there, it’s rough on them,” he said. “They’ve got to make physical rounds in front of all the cells every so often. It’s not a nice work environment for the people who have to take care of the inmates in there.”

Palosaari said he would also like to change the county’s retirement system, but that switching it out will take time. New county hires go to the 401K-line, although existing employees were grandfathered in.

“It’s going to eat up a lot of money to get it funded 100 percent,” he said. “I think in the next couple of years, we will be able to fund it more, because we’re trying to be more conservative on other things, so we can fund more toward the (Municipal Employees Retirement System). We are funding more than what MERS requires right now. Every year we put extra in there.”

Palosaari said people should vote for him because of his common sense. He said he is also proactive on his committees, as well as in talking to constituents.

“They give me a lot of good ideas, and I bring them up to the board,” he said.