First Alexandria Mayor Charles W. Beatley Jr. said he would travel to Europe for a two-week fact-finding tour to be paid for partly by his city's taxpayers.

Then he said he wouldn't, after two City Council members criticized the trip last week as a junket.

Yesterday Beatley changed course again: he's going, but it won't cost the taxpayers "a nickel," he says.

Beatley said he changed his mind after officials from the German Marshall Fund, a West German government foundation sponsoring the trip, persuaded him during a Monday night reception that the tour "would be much more successful if one or more officeholders went along."

Last week, following stinging criticism by City Council members Donald C. Casey and Carlyle C. Ring Jr., Beatley, Vice Mayor Robert C. Calhoun and City Manager Douglas Harman backed out of the trip.

Their withdrawal left a delegation of three high-ranking city staff members who were scheduled to leave this weekend to inspect the waterfronts of Copenhagen, Vienna, Geneva, Hamburg and other cities.

"The Fund officials told me that the Mayor of Vienna was committed to meet us but that if an elected official didn't show up he would probably just send a planner," said Beatley, who will go in place of deputy budget director Henry Howard.

"We think this way there'll be more doors open to us and it will not cost the city of Alexandria a nickel," Beatley said. Originally the trip was to have cost taxpayers $3,500, but the entire expenses of the smaller, three-member group will be paid by a $7,500 grant from the Fund.

"This is not a junket but a working trip," said Beatley, who called each City Council member yesterday to inform them of his decision to rejoin the delegation.

"I got a very positive reaction from everybody but Mr. Ring," said Beatley, who added that the council member "had the same negative feeling he's expressed all along.

"I think he must feel left out," Beatley said.

Ring said he has "doubts" about the propriety of the trip and plans to discuss it at a Sept. 9 council meeting while Beatley is in Europe.

"My concerns were not with the composition of the delegation," Ring said, "but with the procedure and the question of whether there is any significant value to this excursion, I think we have a policy issue here."

Accompanying Beatley, who will fly to Copenhagen Saturday, will be city transportation and environmental services director Dayton L. Cook and planning and community development director Engin Artemel.