LEWISTON – Two weeks ago, a pedestrian walking her dog across Center Street at Seventh Street was hit and later died as a result of her injuries. The crash prompted a lengthy discussion by the Village Board about safety, crosswalks and the speed limit in the village at its meeting Monday.
A vehicle struck Gail C. Beutel, 61, of Sanborn, at 2:30 p.m. June 1 while she was crossing Center Street at the crosswalk. According to witnesses, she was struck a second time by a second vehicle waiting to make a right turn onto Center Street. She was rushed to Erie County Medical Center by Mercy Flight. She died on June 5 as a result of her injuries. Her dog was injured, but survived the crash.
Lewiston Police Chief Christopher Salada said after the meeting that both the Lewiston Police and Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Accident Investigation Unit are investigating the crash and no one has been charged at this point.
But the fatality prompted the board to revisit a continuing problem in the village regarding speed and the failure of drivers to stop at crosswalks, despite signs at every corner.
Mayor Terry C. Collesano said they have tried in the past to get the speed reduced on Center Street, to no avail.
The board agreed that in light of the recent tragedy, they would again petition the state Department of Transportation to reduce the speed from 30 mph to 25 mph on Center Street.
In the meantime, Collesano suggested that electronic traffic signs be placed on the street to alert people how fast they are going. He said the signs appear to slow down traffic.
Town Attorney Edward Jesella said that at some crosswalks, people park too close to the corner and it’s very hard for drivers to see pedestrians before they step onto the street.
He said it may be necessary to move parking spots away from the corners.
“I go down that street every morning and I stopped for two kids crossing and a guy behind me honked,” said Jesella. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. Most people do not stop.”
Trustee Victor Eydt said they need to educate people.
“This is a walking community,” said Eydt. “You are supposed to stop for someone in the crosswalk.”
“What is the big hurry for five blocks?” Jesella said of people who are speeding on Center Street. “It just doesn’t make sense to me that you are in such a hurry that you would hit or kill somebody because you don’t want to go 30 miles per hour.”
Jesella also suggested tougher actions in the courts when someone is stopped for speeding in the village.
Also at the meeting:
• The board unanimously agreed to a plan presented by Trustee Nicholas Conde to end licensing fees for business operators who have recreational video games in their establishments. The village currently charges a $100 license fee, plus a $35 fee per machine each year.
The new Lewiston Event Center questioned the fees in March, which they said would be a hardship to a business like theirs whose livelihood is games. They said the fees for games alone would cost them an extra $1,000 in operating expenses.
Zoning Officer Harry Wright said after the meeting that he agreed with the board, noting that the fees were antiquated and meant to govern games of chance, not recreational games
• The board also noted the passing of Radar, the Lewiston K-9, who was forced to be euthanized last month due to illness. Radar was Lewiston’s first K-9 and was an important part of the department for seven years. He will be remembered with a memorial at Plateau Park at 7 p.m. June 28. Salada said they have also received donations to put a memorial plaque in Radar’s name at the dog park in Plateau Park. Salada said they received a new obedience-trained dog this past weekend.
• Collesano noted that water bill discounts that had been negotiated as part of the New York Power Authority settlement would end July 1. He said Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey is attempting to renegotiate the discount for residents on electric bills instead.
Collesano said the previous board, under Supervisor Steven Reiter, negotiated the discount locally with the power authority last year, but were told by officials in the authority that the discount on water bills was illegal.