Incumbent is lone runner

HOUGHTON – Scott Ala is running for re-election to the Houghton County Board in an uncontested race.

Ala is the Democratic representative for District 4, which consists of Houghton. He has been on the board since 2002.

He said two of the most rewarding things during his tenure have been the creation of the Great Start Collaborative, which serves children 0 to 3 in the area, and the 97th District Court’s drug treatment court.

“Between my wife (Friend of the Court Cheryl Ala) and the current judge (Mark Wisti), they got this whole thing kicking and going, and since then, the judge has done a phenomenal job with it,” he said. “It’s been extremely successful. It may very well be the most successful one in the state of Michigan.”

His top priority for another term is doing something about the roof at the Houghton County Arena. The County Board approved engineering work on a new roof earlier this year. Due to the amount of construction going on this year, the project will likely not occur this year, Ala said.

“Our building inspector walked over there, and he said just walking on it, you could tell that the metal was very thin,” he said. “And it’s a community building. A lot of very young youths are in there often. You have them in there for the fair, you have them in there for wedding receptions, you have them in there for hockey. We have the (Keweenaw) Roller Girls there. There’s a lot of things going on in that building, And it’s important that the roof is not leaking, and it’s safe.”

Ala would also like to see the county’s retirement system get into shape. This year, he said, the system is underfunded by about $11 million, up from $9.4 million the year before.

“That’s a fairly serious number, because now a lot of the money that comes from the taxpayers, which is a little over a million dollars a year, a chunk of that now has to go to pay for the current retirees, where what you wanted was your assets sitting in the bank to be growing to pay for the retirees,” he said. “That’s why you have that asset balance, because you should only have to put in for the current. Now we have to put in to make sure our retirees are getting paid.”

For newer hires, the county has switched to something akin to a 401k. but the county will still need to increase its contribution level to reduce the underfunding, Ala said.

Ala plans to vote for himself, which is enough to assure his re-election. But he hopes people will get out and vote for him based on their trust in him and his fiscal conservatism.

“I’d like to think they would vote for me because I’ve proven I try to run a very conservative government where we minimally have to go to our taxpayers for just the bare bones every year, and we operate inside of the monies that we make,” he said.