Fennimore Mayor Charles Stenner continues to meet with local Amish leaders in hopes of creating a “user friendly” environment for those who travel through the city via horse and buggy.
The Fennimore Common Council’s Cemetery, Buildings, Property and Recreation Committee discussed the matter at length during a meeting Monday evening, June 3.
Stenner told the Council last month he had met with the Amish “a few times.”
“I expressed my concerns and they expressed their concerns,” he said. “They expressed to me why they did some things that they did.
“Why they were using Lincoln Avenue more than they were in the past was because they thought that was going to be less objectionable. I expressed my concern that main street was too congested and was not a safe route for them to go.”
Stenner proposed the Amish travel 4th Street to Jefferson Street, Jefferson Street to 7th Street, 7th Street to Marsden Park Road and Marsden Park Road to Highway 18.
“A lot of them use that already,” he said.
Committee members voiced concern with the proposed route during Monday night’s meeting, specifically the 7th Street area near Fennimore Middle/High School.
“That quadrant of the city gets all of the stuff, school activities and all,” committee member Philip Nelson said. “I think it is ill-advised to add to it and say, ‘OK Amish people, use it,’ because they are going to run into all of it.”
A sore spot for some city residents is the manure left behind by the horses traveling through Fennimore. Often times, the droppings are not cleaned up.
“Their concern as far as the droppings are concerned is being able to stop in a safe manner to do it,” Stenner said. “There is no place to tie the horses up.
“I proposed to them if we could put some hitching posts along that route for them to tie to so they could safely go back and pick up the droppings, they felt that would be a workable situation.”
Ken Thompson, a Jefferson Street resident, spoke of an alternative to hitching posts during Monday night’s meeting.
“My grandpa raised horses and drove them through communities,” he said. “What he did was brought a cement block with him that had the three holes in it.
“He took about a four or five-foot leather strip and he would snap that to the block. He would pick it up, walk it around and set it down in front of the horse and then snap it to the bit.
“In essence, if they were stopped at a garage sale or anywhere, that would be like what you and I would call an emergency brake in our vehicle. They would have control.”
Stenner has broached the subject with the Amish leaders and learned their concern is the cement block could harm the horses.
“I am still in talks with them and we are still going back and forth as to what we think the best solution might be,” Stenner said.
Thompson asked if the Amish will consider diapering their horses to collect their manure.
“We have discussed all that and it is something they will look into,” Stenner replied. “They haven’t ruled out anything.”
Approximately 80 Amish families live in the Fennimore area, Stenner pointed out.
If hitching posts were utilized, committee member Jessie Strack would hope the Amish would provide their own buckets for manure clean-up.
“If you have your own bucket, you take it home,” she said. “Thirty years ago I would have had some fun with a bucket like that.”
Stenner stressed the issue at hand is providing the Amish travelers with a safe place to tie their horses and remove the manure from the streets.
To determine where and how many hitching posts would be utilized, a preferred route must first be agreed upon between the city and Amish leaders.
“I think we all agree it is a problem, it is just a matter of coming up with a friendly solution,” Director of Public Works Dennis Biddick said.
Stenner plans to meet with the Amish leaders this week and will write letters that will be printed in a bi-weekly newsletter.
“I am glad you are communicating with them,” Thompson said. “I hope you make some headway, Chuck.”