LAGRANGE — For the first time in nearly 40 years, LaGrange County is once again a “hippie-friendly” community.
Earlier this month, the LaGrange County commissioners repealed a 1971 ordinance regulating large gatherings of more than 500 people that lasted more than 12 hours long. The law was passed in the early summer of 1971, and LaGrange County Commissioner Dennis Kratz surmised that the act was created to prevent an event like Woodstock — the large music festival that happened in rural upstate New York in 1969 — from ever happening here.
“I called it our anti-hippie ordinance,” said LaGrange County Commissioner Dennis Kratz, smiling broadly.
It’s all part of a process to clean up and modernize LaGrange County laws into an electronically searchable form.
On Monday, the commissioners passed an ordinance establishing a LaGrange County Code. That process helped create a specialized code that will be used to help organize and make LaGrange County laws searchable.
It’s the last step in a process that LaGrange County Attorney Kurt Bachman has been working on for three long years, researching, understanding, and finally organizing a complete list of all the county’s ordinances and resolutions commissioners throughout the years have passed into law. Bachman said many of the documents he read were more than 100 years old.
The “anti-hippie” law wasn’t the only law repealed by the commissioners. Bachman said his research uncovered a lot of old ordinances and resolutions that simply haven’t withstood the test of time.
“There were, during that process, lots of things that made us go … ‘what?’ … and so we brought them here periodically,” Bachman said.
The commissioners then reviewed those laws and removed most from the books. Many of those laws pertained to old traffic laws and road signs that no longer were in existence.
“It’s been an amazing learning process,” Bachman said.
Bachman’s goal was to take the county’s dusty and sometimes forgotten paper files and create a large searchable, electronic document that can be easily understood and researched. Now that it’s completed, the county’s IT department will start the process of posting the file on the county’s website.
Bachman also created a list of what he called specialized acts, ordinances, and resolutions passed by the commissioners that were time-specific, expiring at a predetermined time, like tax abatements. Bachman said his list of those specialty ordinances is nearly as long as his list of documents he codified.
The anti-hippie ordinance, as Kratz called it, was just one of the dozens of older, forgotten, and antiquated laws flagged by Bachman for the commissioners to review and at their desertion remove from the books.
Combing through those old laws was a painstaking and necessary process.
Bachman read each act, carefully, writing an accurate summary of each law. The final process was assigning each law an unique county code so it could be referenced.
“The code was created to help you find it,” he explained. “And in my version, the code is electronically searchable.”
In addition, Bachman has created a link between the synopsis and the original ordinance, meaning those documents also are searchable online simply by clicking on a link to see the original, non codified document.
“That way you can read the text, you’re not relying on my summary of what the ordinance,” he said. “Those summaries, by law, have to contain certain information.”