The Clatsop County commissioners on Wednesday approved a permit for the 2006 Hood-to-Coast Relay that addresses a key grievance from this year's event - the lack of a toll-free telephone complaint line.

The permit also adds a requirement for a $1,000 deposit for the event, which is scheduled to run Aug. 25 and 26 next year.

Hood-to-Coast founder Bob Foote, who spoke to the commissioners Wednesday, said organizers only recently ironed the problem with the phone line.

"We're disappointed like you guys," he said.

Foote said the organizers have been struggling with phone provider Qwest to get a temporary toll-free number, something the company has refused to provide. Just recently the relay group reached an agreement with Qwest that allows them to rent a toll-free number for one month, he said.

Under the county permit, the complaint line must be accessible beginning five days before the event and 10 days after, and staffed 24 hours a day during the event itself.

Despite the problem with the phone line, Foote called this year's relay "the smoothest running event in 24 years."

Sheriff Tom Bergin told the commissioners that aside from some general gripes about the race, there were few specific complaints about misbehavior by runners or other problems this year.

"Looking at the big picture, we're getting better at what we're doing," he said.

Commissioner Helen Westbrook said she still has concerns about the disruption for residents along the rural roads and highways where the event runs, who have to deal with vehicles, dogs and supporters shouting encouragement all night long.

Foote said the average age of Hood-to-Coast participants is getting older, and that organizers try to keep younger runners and walkers from disturbing residents along the route. Two teams have been banned for life from the event for their behavior, he said.

The county permit spells out the requirements for the organizers, from portable restrooms to reflective clothing for runners, and requires that the county be reimbursed for all its costs of handling the event.

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