Ashland voters overwhelmingly approved up to $3 million in bonds to replace the small, aging Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street.

In early election results, Ashland voters were overwhelmingly in favor of spending up to $3 million in bonds to replace the small, aging Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street.

Unofficial election results from Jackson County at 8 p.m. Tuesday showed that 68.74 percent of voters supported the bond measure, with 31.26 percent opposed.

Replacing the station will cost a property owner $0.124 per $1,000 in assessed value per year for 20 years. A homeowner with a house assessed at $237,410 — the median in Ashland — will pay about $29.44 in additional property taxes annually.

In 2006, voters rejected a $5.4 million plan to replace Fire Station No. 2, with many saying the proposed new station would have been too large and expensive. It also would have intruded on nearby Sherwood Park.

City officials responded by scaling down the building plans and leaving the park intact, then asking voters to approve the less expensive proposal. A Public Safety Bond Committee also worked to identify cost savings.

"We wanted to get costs as affordable as we could for the citizens," said Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief John Karns. "I'm pleased the citizens reacted. We'll continue to watch our costs. We'll do our best to give them the best product for the least cost."

With the construction industry still in a slump, Karns said the city could get a good price on the fire station's replacement, while also putting people to work.

He said he hopes construction can start on a new station after this summer's fire season is finished. Once bids for the work come in, he'll know whether enough money remains to find temporary quarters to keep firefighter/paramedics in the southeast part of town, or whether they will have to double up with their co-workers at Fire Station No. 1 downtown. Construction will last about 18 months.

"Ideally, we would like to keep them in their district," Karns said.

Options for a temporary home include renting vacant commercial space or moving to the Ashland Municipal Airport grounds, he said.

When rebuilt, Fire Station No. 2 will be 10,000 square feet. It will replace the existing 2,388 square foot building, which is made from unreinforced concrete blocks.

City officials fear the current building could collapse in a major earthquake, leaving firefighter/paramedics buried in rubble just when they are needed most to help residents.

Among other problems, exhaust from vehicles leaks into the living quarters of the firefighter/paramedics at Fire Station No. 2.

In 1999, voters approved a $4 million bond measure to replace Fire Station No. 1 downtown, across from the Ashland library.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.