Amish community doing its part to maintain Ohio’s byways

Amish community doing its part  to maintain Ohio’s byways

Image Credit: Gene Wintersole

ne of the unseen efforts to provide the state and counties with funds to benefit the maintenance of Ohio’s roads is being crafted by Amish communities throughout Ohio, and few people even realize the effort is even taking place.

Andy Kauffman, a member of the Holmes County Amish Steering Committee, which is geared toward increasing the county’s roadway safety, addressed Holmes County township trustees and other county officials during the annual trustee meeting on March 26 at Harvest Ridge and delved into how the Amish community is doing its part to help keep roads safer and in good shape.

“A lot of people don’t even realize that the Amish contribute to funding our road systems,” Holmes County engineer Chris Young said. “I want people to understand what is being done and why because I think it is a great program.”

Kauffman said the Amish steering committee is made up of a national committee, and each state that has an Amish population within its borders has a state director, with Ohio’s director being Wayne Wengerd of Wayne County.

One of Kauffman’s main focal points was on the road maintenance fund that the Amish community has implemented in the county. Governed by the Amish steering committee, the fund was created in 2003 as a way for the Amish community to do its part in helping the county and townships maintain the roadways.

“To avoid mandatory buggy licensing and registration, it was agreed to perform a voluntary contribution plan,” Kauffman said. “An annual collection would be made throughout the Amish churches, with all funds going toward roadway maintenance in our Amish communities.”

Legislation was created to make this possible, and Kauffman said the way it works is each church collects an annual fee of $50 per buggy from every Amish family in Ohio. That fee includes buggies, surreys and open carts.

The money collected is then divided equally into the counties and townships that have Amish communities, with the state receiving 10%, counties 60% and townships 30%.

Kaufman said if a township has just a few Amish residents, any check less than $300 would go to the county.

The collection process is done annually, with a collection notice mailer going out to all bishops, who in turn will make an announcement to all church members in the district. Each district has a collector who collects the money from constituents, and the treasurer will then disperse the funds.

“The way we get the data to know where the money goes is that every time a collection notice goes out, there is a survey to be completed,” Kauffman said. “The collector will complete that for each district — that way we can be accurate in knowing how many people live in each township.”

Kauffman said there have been some changes made in recent weeks. He said while they request all members to pay into the collection, not all families do, which is something the steering committee is working on improving.

He said with Ohio having 624 Amish church districts and 67 different settlements, tracking the data and keeping records was becoming overwhelming. He said the steering committee connected with Ohio Medical Aid to help streamline the process.

“We met with Ohio Medical Aid in Berlin, and they already do some work for the Amish community, and they have collected a lot of data we didn’t have,” Kauffman said.

The steering committee handed over what it was doing, and OMA performed a collection for the southern part of the state. According to Kauffman, there are two divisions, one being U.S. Route 30 North and Interstate 77 East being governed by Geauga County while south of that is governed by Holmes County.

Kauffman said that trial run was a real eye-opener for the committee. He said it worked well, and they collected a great deal of information.

“I think this will help us track who is participating so much better,” Kauffman said. “Our goal is to get the participation up.”

He said the next collection period will take place in June, with both divisions being performed by OMA.

Kauffman went on to say the $50 fee has been in place since 2003, and the committee is currently exploring bumping the fee up to $75 per buggy.

What kind of an impact has this collection created for upkeep efforts on Ohio’s roads? In the southern division, the effort brought in close to $750,000 in 2021, which averaged to almost two buggies per family.

“We are striving for 100% participation,” Kauffman said, noting 2021 saw a collection of $240,000 for Holmes County and $120,000 for Holmes County townships.

Kauffman went on to talk about the growing number of eBikes in the county and the importance of finding ways for all vehicles to safely coexist.

“It’s important for us to share and educate everyone on the higher rate of speed these bikes can go, and there are more dangers involved for motorists because of it,” Kauffman said. “Our safety committee is putting some effort into informing everyone at our local and state meetings about these dangers, whether it’s at an intersection or trying to pass them on the road. Our hope is that we can spread awareness.”

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