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Amish leadership, Twp. Supervisors to meet

By Staff | Sep 11, 2019

ELIMSPORT-The Washington Township supervisors took no action on controversial ordinances that would affect its Amish population after further conversation on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

The proposed laws would impact the large Amish community by focusing on its chief mode of transportation – horses and horse and buggies.

Township supervisors Kenneth J. Bashista, chairman, George J. Ulrich and Ray LaForme confirmed they will have a work session with the Amish leadership before taking a vote.

Their decision may come by the end of this month or no later than Oct. 15, according to Douglas Engelman, township solicitor.

Supervisors have the proposed ordinance for review by the public at their township building, he said.

The first proposed ordinance attempts to limit piles of horse manure on the public roadways by requiring all horses to be fitted with diapers.

A second proposed ordinance attempts to reduce gouging of road surfaces, which contributes to wearing and potholes but is not the single source of it, by replacing metal horseshoes with rubber ones.

Finally, a third proposed law would require reflectors and registration of carriages and buggies as transportation.

These proposals have caused outbursts at the otherwise sparsely attended meetings and divisions among area residents.

The debate over whether the proposals will work out as envisioned has reached the ear of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, a county with one of the highest Amish populations in the nation, according to a woman who spoke.

The proposed ordinances are meant to improve safety and preserve capital for the township.

“This is only about health and safety,” Engelman said. He added no matter what is decided, supervisors will have to explain in writing their reasons for how they voted.

The Amish have also countered the rubber shoe proposal, saying it would likely damage a horse’s ligament because it would wear down and throw off a horse’s gait.

Engelman noted how the supervisors were not taking their decision lightly and have done research with an equine expert from Penn State University to see if the rubberized bottoms would indeed cause injury.

A woman who rides a horse for her therapy said she took it on Route 44, a statement that caused Engelman to pause and ask her if she really rode on the state highway. The equestrian said she wanted to know if the proposed ordinance would impact her horse riding lifestyle.

Resident Tammy Satterson said in her research she learned of an incident of a horse “flipping out,” when it carried a diaper filled with 40 pounds of manure in a community in Indiana.

She reminded supervisors that if the proposed laws are about safety, then small children riding in a buggy is a safety concern, as are “50 to 80 of these buggies, on any given Sunday.”

Old Order of the Amish said in a statement through their counsel, they want to listen to the supervisors but also want to present a case that their civil rights and religious Ordnung may be at risk should any or all of these proposed laws be passed.

One of the greatest fears for supervisors is when piles of manure or farmer dirt is on a road, drivers of vehicles swerve to avoid it hitting tires, and that could result in loss of control or a head-on collision.

Some non-Amish residents said it appeared the proposed ordinances single-out the Amish, who most agree are peaceful, hard-working and provide healthy and nutritious food and tend to keep farms in immaculate shape.

The Amish mostly remained silent, expect for one man who said if Amish were going to drive cars, would they get the same treatment with these ordinances.

Some residents wanted to ensure they were not singling out Amish.

Jack McCoy said mud left along Alvira Road, left by farmers, not the horse manure, should also be considered as a safety hazard.

Engelman said residents can begin to circulate a petition with signatures as a means of showing support one way or the other.

“That is your right,” he said.