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Wheatfield board approves planning for Krueger Road safety

WHEATFIELD – The Wheatfield Town Board on Monday authorized the town’s engineering firm to compile plans that would estimate the cost of installing sidewalks on Krueger Road, where a teenage pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver in November.

Town Engineer Timothy Zuber of the Wendel engineering firm said the study would cost no more than $3,200.

“I believe they’re already fond of the north side of the road,” he said. There are no utility poles to move and fewer street crossings to negotiate.

Meanwhile, Kelly Dueger, stepmother of Ryan Fischer, the boy who was killed, told the board that town grant writer Bernie Rotella said that the town could apply in January for a grant that could cover 80 percent to 90 percent of the cost of sidewalks.

Rotella confirmed that money would be available from the Safe Routes to School sidewalk program.

“It’s never a guarantee on a grant. I think we have a good chance,” he said. “If I don’t have an engineering report, I have no meat to the application.”

“The work has to be done before January so we can apply for it then,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. He added, “This is not approving sidewalks at this point.”

A previous estimate was $500,000 to $600,000 for the project.

“They want a better number,” Zuber said.

Krueger resident Deborah Seufert opposes the project.

“It will only create a special tax district that would continue the residents’ overtaxed condition,” she said. “The real problem on Krueger Road is speed.” Heavy-footed drivers “know that two sheriffs covering the whole town are unlikely to catch them,” Seufert said. “Instead of spending money to widen shoulders or install sidewalks on one road, why not spend this money on increasing sheriff presence?” She called the project on Krueger Road “a Band-Aid solution with the desire to look good politically.”

Last month, the board authorized filling in a drainage ditch near the Ward Road end of Krueger to give pedestrians and bicyclists an escape route. The 860 feet of underground drain pipe would cost about $10,000. The project has not yet begun and may not begin until fall, according to Deborah Fadel, Dueger’s neighbor.

The board also passed a motion by Councilman Gilbert G. Doucet to ask the state Department of Transportation to install a streetlight at Krueger and Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Also Monday, Matthew J. Montalvo of the Drescher & Malecki auditing firm presented a positive audit of the 2014 town financial records, in which he said the town’s finances are stable even though the town spent more money than it took in the four major funds he discussed: general, water, sewer and highway.

Montalvo noted that in the general, highway and sewer funds, the Town Board decided to spend some of its fund balances, so the decreasing balances “were more decision than occurrence.” The funds still have substantial balances, although they were less than at the end of 2013. “When you look at your overall fund balances, you’re in a very favorable position,” Montalvo said, noting the town was running deficits in all major funds at the end of 2010 and has been building them up ever since.

For instance, the general fund surplus fell about $250,000, from about $2.2 million at the end of 2013 to slightly under $2 million as of the end of 2014, even though the board spent $425,000 from the previous year’s balance.

The unappropriated fund balance in the general fund was $1.38 million, which was 34.6 percent of spending. In 2013, the fund balance was 43.7 percent of spending.

In the highway fund, the board abolished the highway tax for 2014 while appropriating some of the balance. The fund balance fell $250,000, from more than $800,000 to about $600,000. There also were “unplanned expenditures,” Montalvo said, such as higher-than-expected costs for projects on Craig Drive and Errick Road. The water and sewer funds showed operating deficits because of the weather. “Your consumption did decrease a little bit because of wet weather conditions,” Montalvo said.

He said Wheatfield’s bond rating recently was upgraded by Moody’s Investors Service, from A2 to Aa3.