Manure Policy Tabled, For Now
ELIMSPORT – It was standing-room only at the Washington Township supervisors meeting on Monday, Aug. 5, with Amish community members standing along a wall and some unable to make it into the packed social hall.
Township supervisors Kenneth J. Bashista, chairman, George J. Ulrich and Ray LaForme said they have a health and safety crisis on their hands – piles of horse manure, modified jagged metal horseshoes digging up road surfaces to be replaced with rubber and reflectors and registration of carriages and buggies.
Old Order of the Amish are decrying the proposed laws as a violation of their civil rights and ordinances that put their horses at risk for injuries.
“This is only about health and safety,” said Douglas N. Engelman, the township solicitor.
While the end result of the meeting was a first reading of the proposed laws, with supervisors not taking a vote, the plan is to potentially reach a decision in September or later, depending on whether a meeting of the Amish community, their counsel and supervisors can take place.
Clifford Rieders, the attorney representing the Old Order of Amish, opened the dialogue by first thanking the board of supervisors for holding the meeting. Secondly, he said it is the Old Order Amish who believe the proposed ordinances are directed at them.
Residents who signed a paper ahead of time for supervisors were permitted three minutes to speak.
Jacob Zook, a farrier, said rubber shoes would cause the horses to go out of balance.
“They’d be off gait,” he said.
He suggested a type of smooth steel that does not dig into the road.
Zook noted how rubber draws on heat.
“It takes the life out of the foot,” he said. “Leads to shin issues and scar tissue.”
Dick Secules, who rides a motorcycle, said he had to swerve into the other lane, which could have caused a head on collision or forced him to drive onto the berm.
“It’s life-threatening,” Secules said.
Secules, who has an automotive garage in the village of Elimsport, said manure is a health and safety concern when changing tires, aligning vehicles or doing inspections.
Engelman said vehicles get driven into garages and the material can get into houses.
David Ulrich suggested the Amish take a shovel along when traveling and clean up the manure, a practice Amish do when they notice it.
One man who lives in the 1200 block of Gap Road said he counted 16 piles of horse manure on a short drive from his house.
A letter read aloud by a supervisor indicated there were 21 piles of manure found from his residence along Route 44 to Elimsport on Sunday.
The ordinances carry various fines of between $50 to $1,000 for initial violation regarding the continuing use of metal horseshoes without rubberized bottoms to $500 to $1,000 for a second violation.
Not bagging the horse can draw a fine of $50 to $1,000 and $500 to $1,000 for a second violation.
Not registering a carriage and putting on reflectors and a 4-inch tall number can result in a fine of $100 to $1,000 and $500 to $1,000 for a second violation.
Enforcement would be done by state police, constables and local magistrate district judges.
Rieders said there is a question of whether the ordinances can be pre-empted by existing state and federal law.
Rieders stated, “This is blatant discrimination against the Amish who have turned rundown farms in Washington Township into beautifully manicured tracts. “They simply want to be left alone in their traditional way of life.”
“The Old Order Amish community is prepared to fight this if they have to,” said one of the Elders.
Engelman was hoping for a compromise. He alluded to supervisors possibly making changes to the proposed ordinances after meeting with counsel and reviewing the oral and written statements from residents.
In nearby Brady Township, supervisors are taking a “wait and see” approach, the township secretary said.