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Wheatfield board given petition to widen road after fatal hit-run

WHEATFIELD – Residents of Krueger Road, including a Niagara County legislator and the stepmother of a teenager who was killed by a hit-and-run driver last November, handed in a petition with 384 signatures Monday, demanding wider shoulders on that road.

Ryan Fischer, 16, died in an accident that residents attributed to the narrow space available for pedestrians on the busy residential road.

The petition demanded that the shoulders on Krueger be widened from 3 feet to 7 feet.

Highway Superintendent Paul A. Siegmann said that would cost about $600,000, plus whatever it would cost to move a waterline and telephone poles.

“What’s the price of a life?” asked Deborah Fadel, a neighbor of the dead boy, provoking a round of applause.

She and Ryan’s stepmother, Kelly Dueger, and her daughter Summer Dueger took two weeks to gather the petition signatures on Krueger and some of the eight roads that connect with it.

Debra Litten, another Krueger resident, said her two disabled children need wider shoulders for their self-propelled scooters.

“Never mind how much it costs. I don’t care if it costs a billion dollars. Something has to be done to protect our children,” Litten said.

Louise DeFelice, a resident, said the town should be creating temporary solutions by covering drainage ditches on Krueger to give people someplace to walk.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said there are significant financial questions that have to be answered, such as whether the town should place the project in the regular budget and have general revenues pay for it, or whether it should form a special district that would tax the residents of Krueger only.

“If you just tax the folks on Krueger Road, that’s 78 homes. If you bond it for 20 years, that would be $300 to $400 a year (for 20 years),” Cliffe said.

Also, Cliffe said, 75 percent of the homeowners in a proposed special district would have to agree to pay those taxes.

Town Engineer Timothy J. Zuber said sidewalks are another option, but they could cost $85 to $100 a foot. That works out to about $500,000, Cliffe said.

“There’s no immediate solution,” said Cliffe, who persuaded Fadel and Dueger to work with him on finding the right answer.

“Wheatfield is a small town becoming big. At some point you have to have the services they have in a city. People who have been here a long time are fighting these services,” Cliffe said. “The average resident doesn’t want to see taxes.”

DeFelice said that if Wheatfield is doing well enough to consider building a public library, as was proposed earlier this year, it can find the money to make Krueger safer.

Legislator Kathyrn L. Lance, R-Wheatfield, told the Town Board, “We have already paid the ultimate price. I urge Supervisor Cliffe and the Town Board to take a second look at this issue and take steps to make Krueger Road safe.”

Cliffe said after the meeting that Krueger isn’t the only road where the argument about shoulders or sidewalks could be made.

“Do we do Errick, Jagow, Ferchen (roads)? There’s no sidewalks on Shawnee Road, and that’s a deathtrap,” Cliffe told reporters.