Auburn mayor explains council decisions concerning Amish

By Chris Cooper -

Auburn Mayor Mike Hughes is concerned about the perception his city is getting surrounding the recent publicity received involving the Amish and the city’s laws.

“I haven’t made very many statements about this issue, for one due to pending litigation, however, I believe it is time to speak up and let the public know a little history of what has transpired in our city, as to inform people this issue hasn’t been something that has just popped up. This issue involving our Amish neighbors is a lengthy problem, one we have sought answers to for years before ending on a passage of law to address our community as a whole,” said Hughes.

Hughes is referring to the recent ordinance violations made by a hand-full of Amish traveling though the City of Auburn. The city has an animal ordinance that requires collection devises to be placed on horses to prevent manure from dropping on the streets. At least two Amish men have been jailed for not adhering to the law and for not paying their fines and court costs associated with being found guilty by a jury for the violations. There are also several more Amish individuals that have been cited for violating the ordinance and are now in the court system.

Hughes went on to say that in an effort to clarify what seems to be some public misunderstanding, as well as an effort to be completely transparent, he would like to present the following information on behalf of the City Council of the City of Auburn to better inform of the facts surrounding the decisions that have been made.

“We have had many meetings with our Amish neighbors concerning the importance of everyone keeping the city streets clear of manure left behind by animals in their control,” said Hughes. “Recently there has been a great deal of conversation surrounding the Auburn City Council’s decision to require a capture device on large animals. We assure everyone that the decision to do so was a difficult decision that has an eight year history. We have attempted to give that history in this statement as a time-line, some of which has been quoted from the Auburn City Council meeting minutes. The situation at hand is not a new occurrence, as some believe, but a situation that has been ongoing for over eight years now.”

Hughes said it has come to the point where he and the city council feel a detailed time-line needs to be made public so that everyone can be aware of exactly what has transpired and how it got to the point it is at now.

“You will find below dates, discussions, and decisions,” said Hughes. “There are excerpts from city council meeting minutes that are italicized and in quotation marks. There are also highlights from informal meetings with our Amish neighbors that took place outside of the Auburn City Council chambers. These discussions are not a part of our Auburn City Council meeting minutes. I humbly ask that everyone please read the following and try to understand that the decisions made did not come easily or spontaneously for the previous or current Auburn City Council.”

July 9, 2007, council meeting

“Mayor Roche announced that he had several complaints from citizens concerning the litter left behind by the horses that the Mennonite community uses. An example of an equine diaper was shown to the council. This issue was discussed and the council suggested that the Mayor and (Police Chief) Scott Harmon talk with the Mennonites and make a recommendation to use the diapers. If this does not stop the problem, the council would discuss passing an ordinance.” (It was later discovered that it was not Mennonites, but Amish).

August 13, 2007, council meeting

“The mayor went with Chief Harmon to show the horse bags to the Amish. They will present them to the leaders. Mayor Roche gave them 2 weeks to notify him of their intentions.”

September 10, 2007, council meeting

“Mayor Roche reported the Amish are not willing to use the “diapers” for their horses. The City Attorney said the horse droppings can be a health issue and an ordinance passed if found necessary. No motions were made on this matter.”

November 12, 2007, council meeting

“Mayor Roche will talk to the Amish another time regarding their horse droppings on the city streets. This will be the third time they have been confronted about this issue.”

December 10, 2007, council meeting

“Police Chief Scott Harmon spoke with members of the Amish community again regarding the waste of their horses that is left on the city streets and in the parking lots of local businesses. After some discussion among the council it was decided that the Amish would be asked to clean up any piles, but felt no ordinance would be needed on this matter yet.”

November 9, 2009, council meeting

“Mayor Roche said he had received some complaints again regarding the horse manure on the city streets. During the discussion it was said that there was no luck the last time in trying to do anything about this. Mayor Roche said he was waiting to see what the courts decide on the case in western Kentucky. No action was taken.”

Jan. 10, 2011, council meeting

“Mayor Roche said complaints have again begun arising due to the horse manure around town. He stated the council had discussed the option of diapering the horses before but no action was ever made.”

Feb. 14, 2011

Discussion at council meeting.

March 14, 2011

Discussion at council meeting. Motion to amend animal ordinance to reflect all animal excrement be removed.

April 11, 2011, council meeting

First reading of Ord. 2011-03 amending animal ordinance. Evans lone nay vote. First reading passed on majority vote.

May 9, 2011, council meeting

Second reading of Ord. 2011-03. Evans and Duer vote no. Second reading passed on majority vote.

November 12, 2012, council meeting

“Amos Mast and family were present at the meeting due to a citation being issued by the police department for allowing their horse to deposit manure on the roads after which they neglected to clean it up. The 10-day period to pay the citation fee has passed. Mayor Roche explained that conversations were held in the past before the ordinance regarding these situations was put into effect and this was the remedy the Amish community members agreed would be suitable for them; clean up manure rather than placing a catching device on the horses. There was no bishop for the Amish community at the time, but there is now. After lengthy discussion no action was taken and no payment was made for the citation.”

December 10, 2012, council meeting

“Chief Mills spoke to the County Attorney regarding the citation that was issued to the Amish boy that remains unpaid. County Attorney said the ordinance is written well but the matter is a civil matter involving a juvenile that will need to be pursued through the civil courts.”

January 1, 2013

Meeting at Miller Cabinet Shop off HWY 621 between Logan and Simpson Counties.

“This meeting, on New Year’s Day, was requested by our Amish neighbors living in close proximity to the Auburn City limits. I had been elected as Auburn Mayor in November, 2012. I assumed my duty as Mayor of Auburn on January 1st, 2013. I met with approximately 35 Amish men from the area at 1 p.m on New Year’s Day, 2013. The meeting was hosted by one of our Amish neighbors at his cabinet shop,” said Hughes. “The fact that this meeting was occurring gave me a sense we were all in agreement that a resolution was needed concerning the horse manure issue that had already built a long history.

“There was lengthy discussion around this issue for approximately three hours. The discussion included the efforts that had already been made and the effort that would be required in the future to resolve this issue. At the end of this meeting it was my understanding that immediate cleanup of the horse manure in the city streets would occur. There was an exception within this agreement that our Amish neighbors asked for and was agreed to by me.

“Our Amish neighbors were concerned that when one of their wives or daughters were alone in a buggy with small children present they did not want them to stop and get out to remove the horse manure from the street. I asked what percentage of the time they thought this situation would occur. Our Amish neighbors replied about 10 percent to 20 percent of the time. At that point, I brought up the use of a horse manure capture device if our neighbors felt that they were in an unsafe situation.

“Our Amish neighbors did not want to discuss the use of a capture device,” continued Hughes. “I replied that I thought that we were at a good place to start. The city would get 80 percent to 90 percent compliance with its large animal ordinance which would be much better than no compliance. We shook hands and I felt that we had an agreement. Unfortunately, the amount and frequency of horse manure in the city streets did not change for the better.”

January 14, 2013, council meeting

“Chief Mills stated the relationship with the Amish community has improved. The outstanding fine has been paid. One of the elders spoke with Chief Mills and Mayor Hughes saying it is a new year with newly elected officials and they all want to work together.”

May 13, 2013, council meeting

“A citation to a member of the Amish community for violation of the Animal Control Ordinance is now over 10 days.”

July 8, 2013, council meeting

“Bond spoke asking permission from the council for the Merchants group to place a trash can with a liner and attached scoop at the first parking space on the west side of the square. She said the Amish come into town to patronize local shops and have to tie off their horses while they are here. This would provide a container for the horse droppings to be put in. Mayor Hughes said he and council are considering some re-wording of the ordinance regarding animals and he will check with the city attorney on this.”

November 11, 2013, council meeting

“Chief Mills was on vacation last week but was still getting complaints about horse manure on the streets, in the park, and across the bridge at the park. He suggested either rescinding the animal control ordinance in place or amending it to require catching devices for horses. Horse owners are not complying with what they agreed to insofar as collecting excrement from their animals. Kutzman said this issue has been discussed off and on for years now, adding the horses are driven more on some streets than others. Mayor Hughes said it is up to council to determine action taken or not. Kutzman made a motion to amend the animal control ordinance requiring horses to have catching devices with an exception for special events such as parades that will have dedicated cleanup crews. Evans seconded the motion. Motion passed on unanimous roll call vote.”

December 9, 2013, council meeting

First reading of Ord. 2013-10 amending animal control ordinance to require catching devices on horses and large animals inside the city limits. Unanimous vote to approve.

December 2013

Chief Mills delivered notice to Amish Community regarding amendment to the Animal Control Ordinance.

January 13, 2014, council meeting

Second reading of Ord. 2013-10

“Evans said there is a lot of the Amish community in attendance. A commitment was made before and not kept. If in good faith they could show that there is an effort being put forth it might make a difference. Evans made a motion to table the second reading of Ordinance 2013-10. Johnson seconded the motion. Motion passed on unanimous roll call vote.”

February 10, 2014, council meeting

Discussion to allow another 30 days for clean-up commitments to be proven.

April 14, 2014, council meeting

Discussion to revisit Animal Ordinance amendment requiring catching devices on horses and large animals. “…manure situation has not gotten any better.”

May 12, 2014, council meeting

First reading of Ordinance 2014-02, amending animal control ordinance to require catching devices on horses and large animals. Passed on unanimous vote.

June 9, 2014, council meeting

Second reading of Ord. 2014-02. Passed on unanimous vote.

July 14, 2014, council meeting

Police department issued 4 warnings regarding collection devices on horses over the past month.

August 11, 2014, council meeting

Discussion regarding horses at house on corner of Wrenwood and Irl Scott Road. Horse owners (NOT Amish) issued warnings for riding in the city without capture devices.

May 6, 2015

Date for jury trial for Amish men that neglected to pay fines for no catching devices.

By Chris Cooper

To contact Chris Cooper, email or call 270-726-8394.

To contact Chris Cooper, email or call 270-726-8394.

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