County agrees to install buggy signs

The Mille Lacs County Board approved at its Dec. 21 regular meeting the installation of nine strategically located signs that will alert people to the possible presence of horse-drawn buggies typically driven by Amish neighbors that travel in and around Milaca and Princeton.
The board voted unanimously last week but had the same measure fail on a tie vote in August 2014 after 85 citizens signed a petition asking for the signs. Back then, Commissioners Genny Reynolds and Roger Tellinghuisen voted yes; Commissioners Phil Peterson and David Oslin voted no, and Commissioner Tim Wilhelm abstained from the vote. At the time, the no voters said the signs would be rendered ineffective because people would get used to and overlook them.
Tellinghuisen said last week he’d brought the issue up some time ago because there are Amish residents living in his district and because he’s gotten calls of concern about their safety on the road. He said the calls come not from the Amish themselves but from concerned neighbors, especially about young children who drive a horse-drawn buggy to school.
Each of the commissioners acknowledged having received similar phone calls of concern and having seen the buggies in both Milaca and Princeton. Wilhelm said he thinks drivers will tend to “get numb” to the signs and that a flashing light on the buggies would be a much more effective tool for visibility. He acknowledged that slow-moving farm implements and school buses have flashing red lights that work well and are easy to see at dusk and in darkness.
Tellinghuisen said he would take it upon himself to talk with some of the Amish neighbors and see what they could do. He said it seems like the county only does a flashing stop sign or other augmented traffic control after somebody’s been killed or injured on a road or at an intersection. He said, “We have an have opportunity to do something now before someone gets hurt.”
The commissioners agreed to erect nine signs at a cost of about $200 each, including installation, at these future locations:
—Eastbound County Road 11 at Highway 169.
—Westbound County Road 11 at the east county line.
—Southbound County Road 1 south of Bock.
—Northbound County Road 1 at County Road 12.
—Eastbound County Road 2 east of Milaca.
—Westbound County Road 2 at the east county line.
—Northbound County Road 4 at County Road 12.
—Westbound County Road 10 at the east county line.
—Eastbound County Road 8 at Highway 169.
County Engineer Bruce Cochran said last week that he would order the signs right away and, weather permitting, would start installation before the end of the year. He said the timing of the sign-installation project would be dictated by when the signs would arrive, when the underground utilities could be marked, how much it snows before the signs arrive and how long the area has mild temperatures. However, the goal, if possible, is to install all the buggy signs by the middle of January.