This is a neat story and a response to the idea that Amish don’t contribute to road upkeep. Amish in Monroe County, Wisconsin (Cashton settlement) recently made a donation to the local highway department. From the Monroe County Herald:

The five most northern districts of the Cashton Amish community donated $6,275 to the Monroe County Highway Department. Monroe County Highway Commissioner David Ohnstad said a group of Amish recently contacted him and said they were going to count the number of horsedrawn buggies they use and send a contribution based on that number. He said the check, which showed up at the end of November, represents 250 buggies.

Image: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

And it’s not just this county:

Ohnstad’s counterpart in Vernon County told him the Amish community approached him a couple months ago about a similar donation to their highway department. Ohnstad said the donation was unsolicited but appreciated. “We do respect their gesture and take it at face value that they are interested in participating in the upkeep of the highway system,” he said.

As in other places, it appears there is a history of conflict over the roads in this area:

The Amish community has taken flack in the past for not contributing to the upkeep of roads despite traveling them in their wagons and buggies. While the Amish pay property taxes, most of the money to fund county roads comes from the gas tax, which is distributed by the state.

Since the Amish fuel their conveyances with hay rather than gas, there isn’t much opportunity for them to support road maintenance. Licenses and registration, another form of transportation revenue, isn’t required for buggies.

amish buggy winter

Image: Mary

Amish buggies do damage the roads:

According to Ohnstad, horsedrawn buggies do have an impact on the roads. Horseshoes contribute to wear and tear on the roads in the summer as do the cleats horses wear in the winter. The steel wheels on the buggies also can damage asphalt pavement.

A few observations:

  • $6,275 for 250 buggies works out to about $25/buggy
  • As mentioned this is at least the second county where this has happened. Could this be a trend in Wisconsin and beyond?
  • This was 5 church districts of the Cashton community. There are a total of 16 districts in that settlement. Maybe the full community is not participating. Maybe it is a “pilot program”.
  • A third option, however, is that the Vernon County contribution also refers to this same community – the Cashton Amish settlement covers both counties. That’s probably what I would guess happened here. However, there are 4 other settlements in Vernon County, so not necessarily.

And some quibbles (this is the “are we missing something” in the blog title):

  • Are the Amish really not contributing because they don’t own cars and purchase fuel for them? Or is that a bad assumption? Amish do purchase gasoline to power their equipment, such as generators, lawn mowers, tillers, chainsaws, etc. This can be significant. One Amishman estimated his family buys 8-10 gallons/week in winter, and double that in summer. When you look at maintaining a large yard, garden(s), pasture, wooded area, etc., that can take some gasoline…
  • Many Amish – at least outside the plainer communities – hire Amish taxis for transport and thus are indirectly purchasing gas.
  • Over the course of a year, does the average buggy damage the road as much as, less than, or more than the average car?

In some communities, Amish provide funds through more formal means – such as buggy license fees in Indiana, or a “road tax” and per-buggy fee in Ohio.

Interesting to see this story, and hopefully the contribution goes not only towards road upkeep, but also the upkeep of good relationships in this community.

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