An Eau Claire County committee will pursue possible solutions to what some town of Bridge Creek residents and officials call an overload of manure on county roads, especially in the city of Augusta region.
Carol Peuse of the town of Bridge Creek, who spoke to the Eau Claire County Board Highway Committee in June, said Thursday she will be collecting signatures for a petition asking the county to require horses on county roads to use manure catching devices.
Manure on roads from horse-drawn buggies causes drivers to swerve to avoid the mess — making travel dangerous for other drivers, Peuse said. When cars do drive through manure, drivers must deal with the smell on their vehicles.
Towns would need to pass individual ordinances to require the use of manure-catchers, Highway Committee chairman Ray Henning told the Leader-Telegram in June.
However, enforcing a manure catcher requirement would be a stumbling block: Drivers of horse-drawn buggies, including Amish buggies, typically don’t carry forms of identification, Henning said at a Thursday Highway Committee meeting.
“That’s the problem law enforcement has too, (they have) no form of ID,” Henning said. “(Police) stop them and they can say ‘It’s not my buggy.’”
“We can’t do anything without a form of licensing,” said county supervisor Judy Gatlin.
Requiring horse-drawn vehicles to be registered is in the state’s jurisdiction; it’s not something the county can authorize, said Eau Claire County Highway Commissioner Jon Johnson.
Town of Bridge Creek supervisor Bruce Logterman said Thursday he is in favor of enforcing citations for people who drive horse-drawn vehicles by using their name and address.
“If they don’t want to put a license plate on a vehicle, they can ask for their name and address and that’s where the citation has to be written,” Logterman said. “I feel a law can be enforced just with an address.”
That solution may not be legal, Johnson said: “I’m not sure if we do enforce an ordinance, if (it) just being mailed to whatever address they tell you, if that’s legal to do that or not.”
The Highway Committee can make a recommendation to the county board, which could vote on a resolution of support. But the resolution has to be involved with an existing state bill, Johnson said.
While a bill requiring lighting for horse-drawn vehicles traveling on highways became law in April 2018, there isn’t currently a bill in the Legislature involving horse-drawn vehicle registration or identification, Johnson said.
The county can reach out to state Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, and local lawmakers to inquire about a new bill, Johnson said.
“Let’s make some effort to contact local representatives to support this,” said supervisor Carl Anton.
The Bridge Creek town board sent the county a letter June 27 seeking support for the manure problem; it’s all the town can do at this point in the process, Johnson said.
“Countless citizens have expressed disappointment in the amount of manure on our roadways,” the letter states. “There have been reports of damage to paint surfaces of vehicles as well as unnecessary cleaning of vehicles caused by manure on the roadways.”
Town of Bridge Creek chairman Ricky Strauch believes the legislation would find a foothold locally.
“I think we’ll have plenty of support,” Strauch said. “I think it’s just getting the legislation (started).”
The Highway Committee will likely review licensing and registration options, as well as legal options, at an Aug. 15 meeting, Johnson said: “It’s a good next step.”