EAU CLAIRE CO, WIS (WEAU)- Four Amish families in Eau Claire County are facing thousands of dollars in fines and possible evictions for not getting building permits.
The cases are a clash between modern society and a simpler world that Republican Representative Kathy Bernier of Lake Hallie says steps on one of our country's founding principles.
“It is any ones first amendment right constitutionally to practice their religion as they see fit,” said Bernier.
But Eau Claire County Planning and Development Administrator Mel Erickson says current state building code law isn't necessarily on the same page.
“Our main focus is getting compliance with the uniform dwelling code and that’s what we want and if they would get a building permit that would solve the matter. We have no interest in evicting people,” said Erickson.
Wednesday the Amish families will head to court for a scheduling hearing on the cases.
One of the families detailed why they refuse to get building permits in a letter. The letter explaining that state regulations for building family homes requires them to have modern amenities in the house which is against what they believe is Gods will.
The Uniform Building Code or UPC says any home built after 1980 must have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. It is a state law meaning the only exception can be made by the legislature.
“They came it me a while ago and asked if I can help. I can't personally help them other than proposing a bill to change it,” said Bernier.
Bernier says she plans to introduce a bill that would exempt people living without electricity and plumbing from following electricity building codes that require the use of detectors.
"They understand that they have to follow certain structural requirements and they have agreed that, that is fair and adequate," said Bernier.
The proposed change raises some concern with Erickson though. He says the permits are meant to protect people from harm.
"It’s all health and safety issue," said Erickson.
Bernier says she has talked to both Republicans and Democrats who support the bill and has asked lawyers involved with the Eau Claire County cases to schedule the trial for some time in March. She says that will give the bill time to go through the legislative process.
Erickson says the county is not trying to evict anyone but at this point must enforce current UDC code.
He says many other Amish families have obtained building permits and passed inspections under the current regulations.