Pigeon poop.

Those words might provoke giggles in the five-year-old set, but city of Ashland officials are not laughing.

After trying to keep birds away from a city storage building with fake owls and snakes, a noise-making device that upset neighbors but only briefly startled birds, spikes and chicken wire, officials reluctantly agreed it's time to take a different approach.

The building off North Mountain Avenue and behind The Grove has a roof, but no walls to keep out the pigeons, blackbirds and other species that insist on making their homes there.

Earlier this month, the Ashland City Council unanimously approved spending $298,344 to add walls to the building.

Councilor Russ Silbiger said he hates to spend that amount of money to deal with birds, but photos of stored equipment coated in droppings showed him just how severe the problem is.

"These pictures illustrate the problem," he said. "As we know, bird droppings notwithstanding, bird flu is a problem that's more and more prevalent."

Mayor John Morrison said when the city tried using chicken wire to fence out the birds, they managed to squeeze in but then many could not get back out.

"You've got decomposing carcasses up there. It's a significant health problem and has been for some time &

and we really need to fix it," he said.

The city has paid an outside company to pressure wash the inside of the building every few months, said Electric Department Director Dick Wanderscheid, who noted that the situation has been a problem for years.

The city of Ashland originally solicited bids to enclose the building in March 2006, but did not designate design parameters for the project. Only one bid came in, and that was for $798,769, Wanderscheid said.

The city hired an architect to create a design that was scaled back to a bare minimum and then asked for new bids. At $298,344, Batzer Construction submitted the lowest bid out of two bids, Wanderscheid said.

The city has already earmarked $220,000 for the project. The remaining amount will come from the electric department's construction budget, which has a higher than expected amount of left-over money. A construction slow-down has reduced city spending on electrical infrastructure, he said.

That same slow-down, which extends outside Ashland, probably helped hold down bid costs because contractors are trying to keep their employees working, Wanderscheid said.

Aside from keeping out birds, enclosing the building with walls will create a more secure area for storage.

The building is inside locked gates and no equipment has been stolen, but the high price of steel, copper and other metals has boosted theft across the nation, he said.

Work should begin in a few weeks, Wanderscheid said on Monday.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit .