After months of political maneuvering, Rockville's mayor and city council last week put their mark of approval on joint U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms reductions.
Council members readily accepted the results of a recent citywide poll in which nearly 80 percent of more than 5,000 voters said they favored a call for bilateral weapons reductions. "With no discussion . . . they just announced the poll's results, voted and moved on to the next item," said City Clerk Helen Heneghan. The vote was unanimous.
It was an anticlimactic end to an issue that got hotter the longer the council sat on it. Though their resolution gingerly stepped around calling for an immediate and absolute freeze, emotions flared nevertheless as some residents urged the council to pass it and others insisted that city officials keep out of national policy issues.
Throughout the months-long debate, the two sides agreed on only one thing: Rockville's leaders should take a stand -- on something.
Even as that request was met last week, the council was criticized by some residents.
John A. Brewer told the council the post-card referendum was a waste of time and tax money, proving only what was plain to see at public hearings months before: that most residents favored a reduction in nuclear weapons.
"The mayor and council were elected to study the issues, hear the citizens and make a decision," Brewer said after the meeting. "They heard the people, then they turned around and delegated their responsibility to a referendum that cost us $5,600."
Mayor John R. Freeland said the referendum was critical in gaining a true indication of city residents' opinions, adding that many who opposed nuclear arms reductions were intimidated into remaining silent at public hearings because of the disarmament movement's popularity.
Though he said he opposes U.S. arms reductions and thinks local governments should not make recomendations on national issues, Freeland voted for Rockville's arms-reduction resolution.
"I have to admit that I just went ahead with a pre-agreed decision to pass it," Freeland said. "It rubbed me the wrong way, but I just said, 'Okay, the votes are in, the majority says do it,' so I did it."
Critics of the delay on the measure have said Freeland's job as a U.S. Air Force colonel compromised his willingness to represent his constituents on the arms-control issue.
"The fact that I'm in the military does not mean I'm in favor of war," Freeland said. "The purpose of the military is defense. . . . We'd be damn fools not to have equal to or better than what weapons the Russians have."
If the post-card voter poll took the burden off the council, that was "an incidental benefit," according to council member Steve Abrams, who introduced the arms-reduction resolution in June.
"I'm willing to make decisions," Abrams said, "but I'm also willing to let the citizens decide on issues that are big, and to provide the forum for them to do it."
The resolution asks the United States to propose to the Soviet Union "a long-term, mutual and verifiable nuclear forces freeze at equal and sharply reduced levels. . . ."
In other action, the council approved leasing the Town Center underground parking garage to Eisinger, Kilbane & Associates as part of the downtown redevelopment plan. Rockville officials tied the arrangement to Eisinger's plans to revitalize the failed downtown shopping mall, the Commons at Courthouse Square.
Eisinger agreed to spend $2 million to cover delinquent taxes on the mall, roof repairs, fac,ade improvements and an overhaul on its electrical and plumbing systems. On those conditions, the city agreed to lease the garage for $40,000 each year for four years and for $445,622 annually thereafter.
The city would also get 3 percent of that amount, or 25 percent of the garage's profits, whichever is greater, said Douglas F. Horne, the city's community development director. He estimated the renovation will cost Eisinger between $7 million and $9 million.
The council also:
* Agreed to buy road salt from Cargill, Inc. of White Marsh for $28.08 a ton.
* Hired Davis Nurseries of Harrisburg, Pa. for $40,627 to handle several heavy maintainance projects on the city's storm-water system.