ASHLAND — A $3 million bond measure to replace Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street appears headed for a May 2011 ballot.

ASHLAND — A $3 million bond measure to replace Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street appears headed for a May 2011 ballot.

The Ashland City Council on Tuesday accepted a recommendation from an appointed Public Safety Bond Committee that said replacing the station is critical and should be funded by a voter-approved bond. City staff will prepare a plan and bring it back for council approval.

Committee members recommended waiting until May 2011 so the measure won't compete with renewal of the Ashland School District's youth activities levy, expected on the November ballot.

Fire Station No. 2 is made of cracked, deteriorating, hollow concrete blocks that aren't reinforced and could collapse in an earthquake, city officials said. Among other issues, the cramped building leaks, diesel exhaust from engines enters the firefighters' living and sleeping quarters, and a lack of insulation causes excessive utility bills, they said.

"It's way beyond any more Band-Aid approaches to try and hold it together," committee member Don Mackin said.

In 1999, voters approved a $4 million bond measure to replace Fire Station No. 1 downtown, but they later rejected a $5.4 million measure to replace Station 2.

A new proposed design to replace Station 2 scales back the earlier plans to a cost of just under $3 million.

City Councilwoman Carol Voisin questioned whether the cost couldn't be lowered further still, noting that the city of Grants Pass recently built a new fire station at a cost of about $2 million.

Mackin said the Grants Pass station is made of wood, while Station 2 would be made of steel, which would last longer.

The bond committee recommended against adding an Ashland Police Department expansion and remodel, an aerial ladder fire truck and a fire training tower to the May 2011 measure.

Those additions are less urgent and could doom the measure to defeat because of the added cost, most committee members said.

However, the committee sent along a minority report from member Clark Custodio, former deputy fire chief for Santa Clara, Calif., advocating that the aerial ladder fire truck be included in the bond measure. Committee members said they valued his expertise.

Custodio said the aerial fire truck would improve Ashland's fire insurance rating score and the safety of firefighters and building occupants.

There are more than 200 buildings in Ashland that have upper floors and roofs that can't be reached by Ashland Fire & Rescue's tallest ground ladder, which is 30 feet long, city officials said. Aerial ladders can reach up to 100 feet.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.