By Lauren Zaepfel
Krueger Road residents Deborah Fadel and Kelly Dueger urged the Wheatfield Town Board members to take action toward installing more walking space along Krueger Road.
"Wheatfield Town Board members need to recognize they are elected officials," Fadel said at the board meeting on Monday. "Their first priority should be (to) provide a safe environment whereby the residents can enjoy the parks and the many beautiful playgrounds, all the beautiful places in our town, that we can't get to because there are no shoulders or sidewalks to provide a safe route."
In the fall of 2014, teenager Ryan Fischer was stuck by a vehicle while walking along Krueger Road. He died the next day.
Since then, Fadel and Dueger (Fischer's stepmother) have presented their safety concerns to the Town Board on several occasions.
"Right now we're crying out for help again," Fadel said. "It's the SOS. We've been presenting information over the last three years, not getting much support at all. Somebody died here. Do you want to be responsible for another death?"
Last October, the board agreed to apply for a state grant for the project that would cover 80 percent of the total estimated cost of $945,000. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the grant would be provided, which would allow for $756,000 (80 percent) of the total cost to be reimbursed to the town.
"That leaves $189,000, which the town will have to come up with before proceeding," Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said in an email Tuesday. "How we get there will require a lot of discussion."
He said town board members have discussed creating a special district, which could require residents living on, or nearby, Krueger Road to pay for the remaining cost of the sidewalk via taxes.
Cliffe said if the $189,000 in remaining cost was divided among the approximately 659 homes of the area, the cost per household would be approximately $14.34 a year. However, inflation may play a role in making the total increase.
"There are more than enough people that come from other areas of Wheatfield that use that road," Fadel said at the meeting. "It's just not our problem; it's everyone's problem that comes off the boulevard or off of Ward Road. I don't know why you're just sanctioning our area to pay for the sidewalk. It just doesn't make sense to me."
Fadel and Dueger stated 662 residents who live on and around Krueger Road signed a petition last year in favor of a sidewalk if it was paid for by a grant.
"If you would read that petition, it says taxes are not involved and not to set the special district," Fadel said. When canvasing the residents, she said, "We went by getting a grant and no taxes and no ... special group was going to be made up. That's what's on that paper. That's what 600 and something people signed."
Some councilmen said they are hearing a lot of opposition from residents, with one of the main concerns being paying taxes for the sidewalk.
"We're getting letters and phone calls from the residents on Krueger Road and the surrounding area - the side streets - that don't want the sidewalk," Councilman Gilbert Doucet said following the meeting. He also said he has not received "a single one of them in favor" of a sidewalk.
"People that I don't even know are calling me. ... They're stopping me, telling me they don't want sidewalks, they don't want to pay for sidewalks," Councilman Randy Retzlaff said.
He also explained, "Not only is there a cost on the sidewalk, there is also infrastructure that will need to be repaired prior to installing the sidewalk. So, not only will these people have to pay for the sidewalks potentially, they will also have to pay for infrastructure repair that may or may not last for 25 years that we might as well replace up front."
Doucet said another concern heard from residents is determining who would be held responsible if someone gets hurt while using the sidewalks.
Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann said, "If we can pass sidewalks on Krueger Road and residential areas in the town ... you (the board) will have to do one of two things: You will either have to pass a law that residents have to shovel their sidewalks in front of their homes, or we'll have to hire another guy and maybe a machine."
He added, "What we have to do now along the boulevard and Williams Road, it takes a day. And that's if we can use the plow. When the state comes through and shovels all the snow on top of our sidewalks and puts three foot of snow, then we have to use snow blowers. That takes more than a day; sometimes we're out there for a solid week. (If the) sidewalks aren't clear and somebody gets hit, we'll get sued for that."
Overall, Dueger said, "I just ask that you guys please make it a priority to make it safe. I have another child. I don't want to move. I love this town. I grew up here. I moved my family here, because I felt at home and I felt this warm, pleasant feeling and I felt safe. And I didn't know it wasn't going to be safe."
Cliffe said, "We do have a whole lot more homework to do yet. We have not started talking about this area since we found out about the grant. We have not had a chance to (caucus) together."
In other news:
Legislator David E. Godfrey spoke about the state of emergency declared last week due to the high levels of Lake Ontario.
"This state of emergency is still in effect, it will be for a month," Godfrey said.
He urged residents to take caution if visiting the lake.
"I know, in Wheatfield, you're not close to the lake," Godfrey said. "But if you have homes or friends or visit the lake, be conscious that (the) banks have been compromised. Stay back away from them. They're collapsing and they will continue to collapse. This heavy rain doesn't help us, obviously. For boaters, if you get in your boat, be careful, because there is more debris in that lake than I've seen in the last 20 years."
He explained the homes on the lake are some of the highest-taxed property in the county and, "As all that land and those houses are devaluated and our fishing industry is impacted by high and low water, the loss of sales tax revenue is going to be borne by everybody in the county. And that's the sad part. The economic impact is going to be devastating as we go forward."