By Lauren Zaepfel
During Monday night's Wheatfield Town Board meeting, residents urged the town councilmen to support the installation of a walkway along Krueger Road.
In 2014, teenager Ryan Fischer died after being stuck by a vehicle while walking along the road.
His stepmother, Kelly Dueger, who has spearheaded efforts to make Krueger Road safer, spoke about the support she has seen in favor of the sidewalk.
"I just wanted to bring to your attention, as the weather's been nicer and the neighbors have been outside, I've been approached quite a bit about how the sidewalk project is coming along," she said.
She referred to a petition where she and Krueger Road resident Deborah Fadel collected more than 600 signatures last year from neighbors in favor of a sidewalk.
Dueger said, although the board has received complaints from residents who are in opposition to the sidewalk, "you still have over 600 people that thought their voice was heard, that they want this."
She added, "Just keep that in mind there's a lot of people depending on you guys to make this change for the dog walkers, the joggers, the children riding their bikes, going to 7-Eleven, going to Pellicano's (Marketplace), just being able to get to each others houses so they can play."
Danell Jarosz, who lives off Krueger Road, said, "I have seen firsthand the continuing growth of this community - this is a great place to live. So, I ask, why are you not committed to making this neighborhood safe? Why are you not investing in this community?"
The town recently received a grant to cover 80 percent of the estimated total cost of the project, which is $945,000.
"It is an area that has a problem," Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. "It's a unique opportunity to take advantage of a grant to put what really belongs on that road."
With the grant, $756,000 of the total cost would be reimbursed to the town.
But the board would need to decide where to get the remaining $189,000. A special district tax was suggested for those living on and nearby Krueger Road. The cost per household was previously estimated at approximately $14.34 a year. The cost could go up due to inflation.
"We are more than willing to pay our $14-15 share in taxes for 5-8 years," said Laurie Galbo, who lives off Krueger Road. "I mean, I think that's a small price to pay if it saves a life."
Cliffe said, if the town went forward with the project and contributed to the cost, "we have to be very careful of crossing the 2 percent tax cap."
He explained, "If you had $20,000, $21,000, to our cost for 10 years, it will be very difficult to stay under the tax cap. That's a problem we have to deal with."
Fadel read out loud the petition that was signed by more than 600 residents. It stated, "No portion of the cost of construction of the project shall be assessed against the abutting properties, no special district will be created in connection with the project, and no exactions other than dedication of easements shall be required of the abutting property owners as a condition of proceeding with the project."
The town could decide to go another route and take money out of its fund balance for the project. However, "It will make it tougher with the tax cap down the road," Cliffe said.
Cliffe said he thinks the sidewalk should be installed, despite comments received by the board from residents who oppose the project.
"There are a lot of people who have complained, I've got those complaints too," he said. "But it is something I think should be taken very seriously."
For the sidewalk project to be approved, the majority of the board (at least three members) would have to vote in favor of it.
In other news:
Debbie Bentley of Wilrose Court raised concerns about flooding on her street.
"I am requesting a moratorium on all development in this town until the town's drainage and infrastructure issues can be resolved," Bentley said.
Last month, Bentley addressed the board when Wilrose Court was flooded for three consecutive days.
On Monday, she said, "Portions of Wilrose Court were completely flooded for nine of the last 38 days." She said flooding has been a problem on Wilrose since 1999 when the retention pond, known as Willow Lake, was constructed to collect storm water from surrounding neighborhoods.
She explained, "Every time the water level reaches a certain point, and it doesn't really take a whole lot, the water comes out the street drains and floods the street."
Bentley said that on May 5 the water was 9 inches high in the center in the road and "probably 24 inches in the sides of the road by the mail boxes."
Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann said he recently visited the street and attempted to check pipes for blockage, an issue that has occurred in the past.
He said, due to high water levels, it was difficult to see inside one of the pipes and the other was unable to be checked.
He said, when the water level goes down, the next step will be to put a camera in the pipes to ensure nothing is plugging them and "make sure that wasn't the cause."
He added, if no blockage is found, the department may look into installing a pump station to try and combat the problem.
Bentley also requested the town "block the development of the property on Ward Road that is a critical component of the southern drainage system and the only emergency exit for the residents of Wilrose Court."
Residents of Wilrose Court have used what is known as "hall road" to exit the neighborhood if water levels on Wilrose Court were too high to drive through.
Bentley, including other Wilrose Court residents at the meeting, expressed concern as to what would happen if new property owners no longer allow them access to the road.
On Tuesday, Cliffe said he will be "looking into ownership and go on from there."