Buggies In Another Indiana County Will Need Licenses

From Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly:

AUBURN — As the Amish community in southern DeKalb County continues to grow, the DeKalb County Commissioners are getting the jump on imposing a license fee for horse-drawn vehicles and horse-drawn trailers.

The commissioners approved an ordinance on first reading Aug. 8 after a couple of months of discussion. The ordinance sets a yearly license fee, which goes back into the county’s general budget to assist in maintaining roads within the county.

The ordinance defines a horse-drawn vehicle as: a buggy, carriage, dray or wagon designed or intended to use one or more horses as a motive of power. Horse-drawn vehicles and trailers do not include horse-drawn agricultural implements.

The ordinance sets a yearly license fee of $250 for the first horse-drawn vehicle and a $50 fee for each additional vehicle owned by each owner. License fees will be collected March 1 through May 15 each year. The metallic license plates will have to be affixed to each vehicle or wagon.

The license fee for each horse-drawn trailer is $50 and shall also be collected during the same time frame.

Also of interest are these comments by the County Commissioner:

Discussion on the issue began in late June when Commissioner William Hartman received a concern from a county resident living in the southeastern part of the county. The citizen’s concern dealt with the damage horseshoes and Amish buggies do to the roads.

“We might as well garnish their funds if they are going to use our roads,” Hartman said during a June Commissioners meeting. “It will help with repairs when needed.”

DeKalb County is the only county in northeast Indiana that currently doesn’t have a horse-drawn vehicle ordinance. Steuben County passed its current ordinance in 2018.

I may be reading too much between the lines but I hear some frustration in the “might as well garnish their funds” comment. Dekalb County would take in the northern areas of the Allen County community. This is a Swiss Amish settlement. I don’t know what English-Amish relations are like there but it can sometimes be harder with Amish from this group, in my experience. Here is a past example of English-Amish tension in this same community.

I’m not saying that’s fully representative of how things stand between the buggy and car segments of the population here. But it’s also not uncommon that non-Amish residents become frustrated over road damage and manure caused by horse-drawn Amish buggies.

Shipshewana, Indiana area. Image: Jim Halverson

Also, as suggested above, this isn’t the first Indiana county in which buggy licenses are required. Elkhart is another one. Indiana gives the power to impose licenses on horse-drawn vehicles to individual counties.

However it is relatively rare elsewhere in the country. Other places collect fees, but few require actual plates on the buggies, as is the case in some Indiana counties.

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    1. Roger A

      The purpose of a “fee” is to account for the one-time cost to the government of processing the request, which is why Indiana’s state license plate fee is $9.50. The comment from the commissioner, the amount, the difference in amount between the first and second vehicles and the fact that it’s annual, clearly indicates that the county sees this as a tax, not a fee. Is that permissible under the state enabling statute, I wonder?



      “But it’s also not uncommon that non-Amish residents become frustrated over road damage and manure caused by horse-drawn Amish buggies”
      I am in favor of licensing buggies. If you use the roads you should pay. More and more governments are requiring the electric vehicles to pay road fees.
      There should also be some mandatory driver training and insurance coverage.
      Until about 12 years ago we never had a buggy or manure problem on our township roads. Now with our new Amish neighbors, the road is covered.
      If my spreader has a leaky soup pan on the road, I can be fined.