Amish impact raised at Licking Township session

For The Clarion News

A proposed public forum concerning horse manure on public roads in Licking Township did not come to pass Dec. 14, but the positive and the negative aspects of the Amish community were discussed by the board of supervisors and about 10 residents who attended the board’s monthly meeting.

A social media post announced earlier in December said the topic of horse manure on the roads would be raised at the board of supervisors meeting, and referred to the manure as coming from horses used to pull Amish buggies.

Licking Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Martin Whitmore said the person who originally made the post later said the discussion was canceled and took down the post, which had generated several replies.

“That was news to us,” said Whitmore. “We never planned (a discussion on the topic).”

Township resident Alex Elder said he saw the post on Facebook, adding he attended the meeting to hear the “big pow-wow” about the Amish.

“Well, you might as well cool your jets and don’t come (complaining)” said Licking Township Supervisor Len Elder. “There’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t enforce the ordinances we have. We have to have an enforcement officer or we personally have to go there, catch them at it, and then go file a complaint at the magistrate’s office.”

Len Elder was referring to more than just a potential horse manure ordinance. Local municipalities, especially smaller townships with limited resources, face problems with enforcement of all municipal ordinances. Without a designated code/ordinance enforcement officer, or personal intervention by one of the elected supervisors, there is little to be done about violations.

“We don’t have the resources to chase violators,” added Whitmore.

“We don’t want to hurt the Amish,” said Alex Elder. “We just don’t want to drive in the horse (manure). You know, we pay fuel taxes and tire taxes and have to have our vehicles registered and insured. The Amish don’t have to pay for those things, yet those steel horseshoes really chisel the roads down. We have to have the steel studs out of our tires in the spring.”

The Licking Township area has a large Amish population. In one area, there is a large calf-raising operation.

“We have a meeting about tax assessment,” township secretary Karen Best said. “During the re-assessment, they are finding a lot of new buildings.”

Best said the assessors agreed more vigilance is needed in watching for new buildings going up without proper permitting. The permitting process provides a way to keep assessments up to date.

Some of those new buildings are allegedly being constructed without building permits, building code inspections and sewerage permits. Over the past few years, similar concerns have been raised in Ashland, Salem and Washington townships and Knox Borough.

“Now the way they buy and sell land we have received a good amount in real estate transfer tax money,” said Best.

“There are things that do help us,” Whitmore acknowledged. “But the horseshoes are hurting us. The tractor-trailers are hurting us.”

Supervisors said numerous tractor-trailers making deliveries of feed and other product to the factory farms and tractor-trailers picking up loads of manure and calves, are sometimes over the posted weight limits on the township roads, damaging the roads.

Best said the township cannot stop the truck traffic because they are considered “local deliveries” and therefore not subject to the weight limits.

“The tractor-trailers are ruining our little roads,” said Best.

Internet research turns up numerous studies showing the steel horseshoes used by the Amish and the steel rims on their buggies damage the asphalt on public roads. The cleats on the horseshoes chip the road surface, allowing small pools of water to gather which can then freeze in the colder months. The water, even in very small quantities, can cause cracks which weaked the road surface and eventually form into potholes. The steel rims can cause grooving, creating hazardous conditions for motorcycles and again by collecting water and freezing.

Len Elder said the state legislature “won’t touch” issues involving the Amish.

The legislators out east, around Lancaster and those places, won’t do anything or allow anything,” said Len Elder.

Supervisors also noted state police will not enforce municipal ordinances.

In other business, supervisors agreed to replace a stop sign at the intersection of Linamen Road and Larkin Road. A township resident reported the missing sign and asked why the sign was removed.

“It was probably stolen,” said Whitmore.

“It’s a constant thing,” added Len Elder. “They get stolen or knocked over by the tractor-trailers.”