City Council approves budget and an Independence Day paradeGEARHART - The Fourth of July celebration on Gearhart's beaches is overly loud, dangerous, involves too much alcohol, covers the beach in rubble and is harmful to the environment, six residents said during public comment at the Gearhart City Council meeting Wednesday.

"Gearhart has become, like, the go-to place if you want to really go and blow stuff up," Wilson Mark said. He asked the council to consider limiting fireworks in future.

Phillip Mancill offered a different view.

"We have to realize that the Fourth of July is a celebration of freedom," Mancill said. "I think we should just get out of the way."

City Attorney Bill Canessa said most of the fireworks on Gearhart's beaches are illegal. Mayor Kent Smith said the council appeared to have a mandate to do something about the fireworks. The council agreed to discuss enforcement with Police Chief Jeff Bowman in a work session at 4 p.m. June 9.

In other business, the council unanimously approved the city budget for the fiscal year of 2005-2006, in which the only major change was the $447,253 needed for the water treatment plant, City Administrator Dennis McNally said. Gearhart voters approved the $7 million bond in the November 2004 elections to create a water system rather than continue to buy water from Warrenton. McNally said the bond will mean approximately $1.70 more in taxes per $1,000 of property value.

McNally reported a well is working at Sixth Avenue at the beach for about eight hours each day. He said the well has to filter out arsenic. The council agreed to work sessions at 5 p.m. June 9 with Kennedy/Jenks, the consultant for the city on the water system project, and at 3 p.m. June 15 with the Department of State Lands to discuss general wetland issues.

The council decided not to act on a request from the Palisades Homeowners Association to reaffirm the comprehensive plan, on the grounds that it was a matter for the Planning Commission.

Councilor John Pincetich said he was concerned a walkway around the golf course on Cottage Avenue was not included in the road widening that is under way by Clatsop County. McNally said when the road is completed, the city can consider adding stencils to the bicycle and pedestrian paths. He said the bicycle and walking path will be extended as a separate surface along Cottage Avenue.

During the public comment period, Charles Starr said drivers sped down 10th Avenue at the beach to drive over the dunes over Memorial Weekend, creating what he said was a dangerous situation. He estimated 150 cars got stuck on the beach over the weekend. He said 10th Avenue is too narrow. "The beach access road is in a great state of disrepair," he said. McNally said the county scrapes the sand every six weeks. Smith and Pincetich agreed to meet with McNally to discuss widening the road.

Judy Black from the Trail's End Art Association thanked McNally after learning the city is moving forward on acquiring land for a community center from the Seaside School District across the street from City Hall on Pacific Way. The association is inviting the public to "First Saturdays" receptions from 4 to 6 p.m. the first Saturday of each month at the art center at 656 A St.

Councilors and members of the public applauded James Downes, who has been the student representative for the last year. Downes has worked to establish a Web site for the city of Gearhart. He said the experience has helped him to learn about city government and public speaking.

The council also unanimously approved:

• New public contracting rules to allow informal quotes for contracts the city makes with private parties that are under $5,000 and formal quotes for contracts under $25,000. Contracts above $25,000 require sealed bids. The council approved exemptions to the rules that included emergency procurements, purchases through federal programs, contracts for works of art and other exemptions to be determined by the council by resolution;

• Cost-of-living raises of 2.7 percent for the city attorney, chief of police, auditor, treasurer and municipal judge;

• A 3.1 percent cost-of-living increase for Western Oregon Waste;

• Use of the City Hall parking lot from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. July 23 by the Clatsop Court Appointed Special Advocates to sell tickets for their annual garden tour. The CASA program's mission is to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children who are involved in the juvenile courts;

• An 11 a.m. Fourth of July parade.

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