A stray bullet at the Ashland Gun Club didn't put the Plaza Lithia Fountain out of its misery, but it did make repairing the town icon a little more difficult.

The famous fountain was initially attacked by vandals in 2006 and has yet to be repaired. It sustained further damage last weekend when the system that pumps the water from a spring east of Ashland to town was accidentally shot at the city-owned gun club at Emigrant Creek.

"The electric system got shot up at the gun club," said Ashland Public Works Superintendent Mike Morrison, explaining that the strange-tasting water said to have healing properties is actually pumped from Pompadour Chief Spring near the gun club.

As a result, the other locations where publicly pumped lithia water is normally available &

the Ashland Police Station, a spigot near the gazebo in Lithia Park and the "jug filler" on the Plaza &

were just as dry as the Plaza fountain.

"We need to put in new electric service," Morrison said, noting that Lithia water was unavailable until the electric system was repaired on Friday. "It was shot through the meter and transformer."

He estimated the project cost the city approximately $2,000. The electric box near the gun club has been "turned around" to prevent the same situation from occurring again.

But the Lithia Fountain on the Plaza will need more than a bullet-proof vest to protect it. In February of 2006, Ashland Police arrested three men for dislodging four of the fountain's six porcelain bowls. Since then that distribution point has been inoperable. Morrison said that act of vandalism was just the "final straw."

The minerals in the lithia water have been deteriorating the fountain's framework and clogging its pipes for years. There are also structural problems with the fountain itself.

"The granite [base] doesn't have the strength to hold the fountains," Morrison said. "There are so many minerals in Lithia water it causes deposits. We had to clear it so often."

Ashland hired George Kramer, a local historic architecture consultant, to help find a foundry to pour new porcelain bowls. The granite base also needs to be strengthened, and the public works department would like to find a way to clean the pipes in place without the cleaning chemicals and acid getting into storm water.

"We were hoping to have it before the summer of this year, but we didn't have the money budgeted."

Morrison said the needed funds are in the budget now, and it is just a matter of making the necessary repairs. A sign on the fountain said it should be back in place and operational by this fall.

The Lithia Fountain, built with Ashland granite, was installed in 1927 for $175,000 at the request of the now-defunct Commercial Club, a precursor to today's Ashland Chamber of Commerce. That organization's motto was, "Ashland grows when Lithia flows." The fountain was built at the same time as Lithia Park. Prior to the creation of the Plaza fountain, Lithia water, known for its healing properties, was the focus of several "development schemes by the region's settlers," says a report Kramer authored for the project. —

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or .