The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Townships request 30 percent of Gogebic County PILT money


May 24, 2018


Bessemer — Representatives of townships in Gogebic County again requested Wednesday that they receive 30 percent of federal payment in lieu of tax money that’s paid to the county.

A total of 38 people attended the county board meeting at the courthouse, with the majority there because of the PILT issue.

Watersmeet Township Supervisor Mike Rogers said the county has received around $5 million in the last 10 years in PILT money and his township has a high percentage of the federal lands involved.

Rogers said the 30 percent should be given to the towns to provide essential services.

He claimed other Michigan counties provide 50 percent of PILT funds to their townships and said one county is at 75 percent.

Wakefield Township Supervisor John Cox said revenues are decreasing for his town. “We’re asking for a little bit of help,” he said.

“We’re asking for a little fairness,” said Marenisco Township Supervisor Richard Bouvette.

The township representatives said the situation hasn’t changed for 30 years.

“We do deserve more than we get down there,” county board chair George Peterson, of Watersmeet, said.

Peterson opened up the meeting for a 30-minute discussion in which anyone could comment as often as they wished. Most meetings have a five-minute time limit for individual comments.

County board member Joe Bonovetz, of Bessemer, said the county has also seen reduced revenues, but he said he wouldn’t object to studying how the PILT money is being spent in the county with an analysis of the general fund expenditures.

Commissioner Jim Oliver, of Ironwood, said, “We use tax money the best we can through the county.”

Watersmeet area residents complained they often get the short end of the stick, however.

Rogers said Watersmeet could have used the PILT money when it needed $105,000 for ambulance services. Commissioner Dan Siirila, of Ironwood, said Rogers never came to the county board to ask for help, however.

Rogers said Watersmeet ended up paying $43,000 for the ambulance service, matched by the same amount by the tribe.

Rogers said he understood PILT money was being considered for ambulance service payments in northern Iron County, but board member Jeff Wasley, of Ironwood, said the PILT money’s already been designated.

“Your beef’s with the state,” commissioner Bob Orlich, of Wakefield, said.

In 2016, a legal opinion was sought from Gogebic County Prosecuting Attorney Nick Jacobs on whether the PILT money has to be shared with the townships.

Jacobs said Gogebic County is under no legal requirement to further distribute PILT payments to other local governmental units.

The board could choose to distribute the funding to school districts, cities or the townships, Jacobs said, but is not required to do so.

Peterson said the PILT issue will be revisited at the next county board meeting.


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