WHEATFIELD, N.Y. (WIVB)- Dozens of people wearing green ribbons packed into the Wheatfield Town Board chambers Monday evening.
Green was 16 year old Ryan Fischer’s favorite color. He was killed in a hit and run along Krueger Rd. in November 2014.
Neighbors fighting to get a sidewalk installed along the road wore his favorite color as they joined a crowd of more than 100 people at a special sidewalk information meeting.
More than 650 town residents have signed petitions supporting the sidewalk, which eventually helped the town secure a more than $750,000 state grant to pay for 80 percent of the cost. The town would have to pick up the remaining 20 percent.
“I just want to take something horrible and make something wonderful out of it,” said Ryan’s stepmother, Kelly Dueger.
She and more than 14 other people spoke up at the meeting.
It was held ahead of the regular board meeting, where lawmakers were set to vote on whether to sign a contract with the state and move forward with the sidewalk grant.
Town Supervisor Robert Cliffe presented the motion.
“It’s not a no-brainer because of the number of people opposed but it is an opportunity for us to get it done and make Krueger Road a much safer place,” said Cliffe. “It’s a rather unique road, it runs between two major state roads. It’s a cut-across to go from one to another and it also has about 660 homes that feed off of it.”
A handful of residents, however, spoke up against the proposal. They argued it will lead to sidewalk construction in other areas of the town and the community will eventually lose its country environment. Others had concerns about the cost of maintenance in the future.
Randy Retzlaff, a member of the board, said they received an overwhelming number calls, e-mails and personal appeals opposing the sidewalk.
The board voted down the motion to move forward with the state grant for sidewalks.
“The majority of the people in the town of Wheatfield do not want sidewalks and we didn’t know that at the time we went for the grant,” said Retzlaff. “I wish the majority of the people would’ve come forward at that time and told us how they felt.”
He proposed an alternative that the town ask state officials to amend the grant so it can be used instead to widen the shoulders. The board passed his motion.
Retzlaff said the town will now put together a $5,000-$10,000 engineering study as they work with state officials to change the terms of the grant.
“It is a narrow road,” said Retzlaff. “We do want to make it safer.”
For Dueger, it’s a frustrating change of heart. Neighbors tried to get wider shoulders years ago but the town said it was too expensive so they focused on getting the sidewalk grant.
“I put my blood sweat and tears into this, for them to sit up there tonight and decline the entire project, it’s very frustrating and breaks my heart,” she said.
Dueger told News 4 she is glad the town is taking a step forward at least and hopes it will save lives.