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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
A buggy gives its occupants a little extra protection from the wind on Grabill Road in Grabill.

Buggy license fees shoot up

To $55; county cites heavy cost of road repair

– It will cost almost double to buy an Allen County license plate for your horse-drawn vehicle.

The Allen County commissioners on Friday voted to raise the annual licensing fee from $30 to $55. Commissioner Linda Bloom was absent.

Officials first proposed the increase in November, but it was delayed after concerns were raised by the Amish community, administrative assistant Chris Cloud said.

He said officials met with representatives of the Amish community and the township officials who sell the plates for the county. One of their concerns was the plan to gradually increase the fees, finally hitting $55 in 2016. Instead, the fee will immediately go to $55.

Commissioner Therese Brown said the meetings also produced a chance for the community to work with the highway department to try to find ways for horse-drawn vehicles to cause less damage to roads. Brown said officials might use a test area to try various methods and see what works best.

It may be hard to imagine that a horse and carriage could wreck pavement, but horses weigh about 1,100 pounds, and their metal-clad hooves pound the asphalt with every step. The narrow wheels on carriages also concentrate all of the weight of the vehicle into a small area.

Cloud said there are about 14 miles of county roads that need repair because of damage by horse-drawn vehicles. Last year, licensing brought in about $30,000; that money is meant to help offset the estimated $500,000 in damage they cause.

“Even with the higher amount, it really doesn’t come near the maintenance cost,” he said.

Officials said the fees are not expected to increase again anytime soon, noting that this was the first increase since 1997. The townships that sell the plates will continue to keep $2 from each plate sold.

The commissioners also voted to contribute $50,000 toward a study needed to bring a high-speed passenger rail line to Fort Wayne. Next week, they said, they will give formal approval to contributing $10,000 toward the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association’s costs for a consultant on the project.