After accumulating $2,000 in fines, the owners of Rockville's Wintergreen Shopping Center will be able to keep at least temporarily a second sign for the Dash's Designers Inc. store, the city's mayor and council decided last week.

So ended a simple-turned-complicated request for an exemption to Rockville's sign ordinance made last summer when the shopping center wanted to put a sign on the front, in addition to one already on the side, of the Dash's store at 815 Rockville Pike.

The city Board of Appeals spent about three months considering the request, and last fall it concluded it had no authority to change the sign law, City Clerk Helen M. Heneghan said.

"As a matter of fact, nobody does. You have to go to court," she said.

Meanwhile, the proprietors of Wintergreen Shopping Center went ahead "in direct defiance of city regulations" and installed the second sign without special permission, City Planning Director James (Mike) Davis reported to the council.

While the city continued to wonder how the exemption request should be handled, the city Licensing and Inspection Department fined the owners of the shopping center $75 for the first day the sign law was violated and $150 for each subsequent day, Heneghan said.

"What they were doing wasn't right," she said. "The trouble is, nobody's sure how wrong it was."

Last week, at the suggestion of the planning staff, the council decided to grant the store relief from any more municipal fines, holding the penalty at $2,000 until the the city Planning Commission rewrites the sign law to clear up alleged ambiguities, Heneghan said. That isn't expected to happen before next fall, according to city reports.

In other action, the council decided to allow the city manager to buy without seeking bids items and services costing less than $20,000, Heneghan said.

John W. Lawton, the city finance director, had pointed out that "some 40 to 50 agenda items could be removed" from council meetings each year if the council raised the bid limit of $7,500 to more than $10,000. The new policy takes effect March 22, Heneghan said.

Lawton said in a report that the change was designed to streamline city bureaucracy.

The council also agreed to buy an $8,379 police car from Chevy Chase Chevrolet and a $9,404 cooking exhaust hood for the Senior Citizen Center kitchen from W.B. Maske Sheet Metal Works Inc. of Bladensburg.