Ashland fire station bond: Yes

The following editorial appeared in the Mail Tribune Wednesday:

Ashland voters will decide next week whether to approve a $2.9 million bond issue to replace the city's aging Fire Station 2 on Ashland Street. We recommend a yes vote.

City leaders found out the hard way in 2006 that Ashland voters aren't pushovers for any civic project that comes along. Voters that year rejected a $4.9 million bond to replace the fire station.

The earlier plan would have built a 12,000-square-foot station that would have encroached on adjacent Sherwood Park. This year's proposal is for a 10,000-square-foot building that does not take any park land.

The need to replace the existing station is undeniable.

Built in 1965 of unreinforced concrete block, the building likely would not survive an earthquake. It is unhealthful for the firefighters who live there 24 hours a day while on duty, because diesel fumes leak from the garage area into the living quarters.

The 2,388-square-foot station was originally designed for two firefighters, at a time when the city employed 18 people in a fire department that responded to 100 calls a year. The department now employs 25 and responds to more than 3,000 calls a year.

The station also has only one bathroom to serve male and female firefighters and the general public.

The existing station has room for two fire vehicles. The new one would hold three.

The bond issue would cost Ashland residents 12.4 cents in property tax per $1,000 of assessed value. That equals about $28 a year for the owner of an average home. Property in Oregon generally is assessed at about half its market value.

The 2006 bond proposal drew opposition largely because community residents felt it was too lavish. City leaders have shown that they heard that message loud and clear.

The original design in 2006 for the new station would have cost $5.4 million for a building more than 14,000 square feet in size that encroached on park property. This year's proposal started at $3.5 million, and the city's Public Safety Bond Committee reduced it to under $3 million.

One thing is certain: Building a new fire station will not get less expensive in the future.

The Mail Tribune Editorial Board recommends Ashland residents vote yes on Ballot Measure 15-109.

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