SEASIDE - Four mayors and one mayor's representative agreed the cities of Clatsop County need to work together more closely to solve transportation issues. The mayors of Astoria, Warrenton and Gearhart said at a Seaside meeting Thursday that a bypass committee should be formed between the cities. Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen said a committee should also include representatives from the Clatsop County Commission, the Port of Astoria, the state and school boards. "If we all move forward together, we could do a lot," he said. Gearhart Mayor Kent Smith cautioned that the Oregon Department of Transportation has consistently said a bypass is not feasible.

Seaside Mayor Don Larson and Cannon Beach Interim City Manager Gene Halliburton did not comment on the idea of a bypass, but urged more cooperative work. "We need to be together, and I think the highway situation has brought that to life," Larson said.

The American Association of University Women sponsored the forum to help provide a vision for the future. The mayors spoke in turn about their cities' needs, successes and plans. Afterward, they took questions from the audience and tentatively agreed to meet again to discuss the county's issues.

AstoriaVan Dusen said his city's biggest weakness is transportation. He praised Warrenton's airport and said other cities can help improve it into a commercial airstrip. He also proposed improvement of U.S. Highway 30 and more railroad travel. "We've really proven we could do it," he said, citing the Lewis and Clark Explorer Train.

Van Dusen said Astoria's successes include good use of the Columbia River, renovation of the Astoria Column and trolley, a strong volunteer presence, environmental cleanup and excellent health care. He said the cities should cooperate more. "I think we need five high schools," he said. "I don't think we need five superintendents. The more we can combine our resources, the better off we're going to be."

Van Dusen urged support of Clatsop Community College and the county fairgrounds and a solution to the sea lion problem on the docks. "They're becoming aggressive and they're becoming dangerous," he said.

He was not caught at a loss for words. Asked why north Clatsop County has most of the voters, but south county pays most of the taxes, Van Dusen responded, "And I want to thank you."

WarrentonWarrenton Mayor Gil Gramson called his city an industrial and retail center that is also a good place to attract tourists or to retire. Gramson said Warrenton's goal is to balance the needs of industries with the needs of a small town and to preserve the environment and the quality of life. He described the city's position toward developers by saying, "We want you to come in, but we want you to respect our values and also the community in which we live."

Gramson said Warrenton is looking at financing waste treatment facilities, and that sea lions are a problem there. "I have to admit that I was not aware there are beggars at Fred Meyer," he said in response to a question from the floor. He added that the highway is public property, and he is not sure what Warrenton could do to discourage panhandling there.

GearhartSmith said Gearhart will not change zoning to provide any more commercial areas. "Our comprehensive plan states that we will not develop any more," he said. "Residential is what we are."

Smith said Gearhart government and citizens are working on enforcing fireworks laws, building an arts center, starting a tsunami committee and developing a new water system. "Our fire hall is beginning to crumble," he said. Smith feels if Gearhart voters are smart, they will vote for a new fire hall even after last year's water bond. "If you invest in it now, it'll be much less expensive," he said.

Clatsop Community College could be more centrally located, and might work better as a four-year university, Smith said. He praised the Gearhart fire and police departments, and said the city supports countywide programs financially and in other ways.

"Gearhart's been a little bit of a maverick in some ways," Smith said. He added that the city tries to have friendly relations with its neighbors in Seaside and Warrenton, and said he feels Gearhart has a good relationship and an excellent mutual aid agreement with Seaside.

Seaside"We're a tourist town," Larson said. "We have to be very, very careful that we take care of our own people." He said the schools and the hospital are the only other major sources of jobs for Seaside.

Larson said Seaside is working to upgrade its image, including moving the post office, siting a new library, constructing a new skatepark and improving the run-down Holladay Drive. "Holladay is a very important mover of traffic," he said. "It's in very poor shape." Larson said the city needs to improve the street to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. He cited the renovation of the Chamber of Commerce as a city success. In the future, he expects more growth on the east side of town, making a new water plan a necessity. He said Seaside's water system is at its capacity and more water storage is badly needed.

The Seaside City Council is waiting for feedback from the Planning Commission on highway alternatives in the wake of the failed U.S. Highway 101 project, Larson said. He also wants to work toward a recycling center in Gearhart and educational efforts to curb underage drinking. "We're striving, all of us on this council, to make Seaside a family town," he said.

Cannon BeachHalliburton was representing Cannon Beach Mayor Dave Rouse, who was not able to attend. He said Cannon Beach is based on service industries, and that is not likely to change. "Cannon Beach is certainly a visitors city," he said. He admitted many of the people who work in Cannon Beach cannot afford to live there.

Halliburton agreed with Gramson that balancing quality of life and economic growth is necessary. "I believe that's what it's all about," he said. Halliburton believes the communities have to work together, and cited the cooperative efforts of the police agencies as a positive example.

Issues for Cannon Beach include parking, short-term rentals, the recently passed sewage treatment plant bond and fecal matter that has been appearing in the city's ocean waters. Halliburton said no one is sure why some tests show fecal matter and some do not, and said animal wastes may be the cause. He praised the high number of volunteers and said Cannon Beach has very little crime, but said there is still a methamphetamine problem.