PEPPERELL -- Ray's Package Store was issued a half-day liquor license suspension following the sale of alcohol to two underage parties during a police compliance check.
The suspension, which was issued by the Board of Selectmen at a public hearing on Dec. 17, will be enacted on Jan. 28. The store, which usually opens at 10 a.m., will not be permitted to open any earlier than 3 p.m. on that day.
Police Chief David Scott had initially brought the matter to the selectmen following the failed compliance check. According to a letter Scott wrote to the selectmen, on Saturday, Nov. 17, the police department had conducted compliance checks with two underage males. The two males attempted to purchase alcohol at six locations in town.
"They were turned away from all establishments with the exception of Ray's Package Store," Selectman Michael Green read from the letter.
The first male entered Ray's and purchased a six-pack of beer without being asked for identification. Approximately five minutes later, read the letter, the second male purchased a bottle of vodka from the same employee and was likewise not asked for identification.
Scott wrote that Ray's Package Store had also been in violation of an ABCC compliance check in the recent past.
Christine Morrissey, a manager, appeared with Ray's Package Store owner Kenneth Chaplin. Morrissey apologized to the town and the board and asked the selectmen for leniency.
"The employee was immediately fired from the position. All people are TIPS trained and know better ... We have a machine that checks IDs, but when you put someone behind the counter you have to put a little bit of faith in them," she said.
The store had recently had all its employees quit, said Morrissey, and management needed to fill the positions immediately. Following the recommendation of another employee, and having previous liquor sales experience on his resume, the employee in question was hired.
"He seemed to be well aware of the gravity of not IDing people and he let us down and he let you down and we apologize sincerely," said Morrissey.
She added that they have made employees well aware of the ramifications of failing to properly identify a customer's age.
"It can cost us the store; it can cost them their jobs," she said.
The previous incident of failing the ABCC compliance check had been several months ago, when a family member who was employed at the store had not checked the ID of a customer.
"The guy was a real big guy with a beard. It was a lack of judgment on (the employee's) part ... We ID everyone now," said Chaplin.
Morrissey said she had attended the hearing at the time with her daughter.
"They understood the situation at the time and she admitted to the violation as we do right here. There's a lot at stake here and we know that."
Selectmen warned against the store failing another compliance check in the future.
"We can't be sitting here again in the future doing this one more time, because ... that would be devastating to your business," said Selectman Stephen Themelis.
In other business, selectmen are requesting $55,000 from the Finance Committee's contingency fund for veteran's assistance through April. The state reimburses 75 percent of the cost of veteran's assistance. Veteran's agent Joe Mazzola said the $75,000 that had been appropriated at annual Town Meeting had not been enough to cover the cost of the rising need of veterans in town. Earlier in the year, the town had been dispensing $8,000 a month for veterans' assistance; they are currently putting out $15,000 a month due to more applicants and higher unemployment rates.
"If we get the $55,000, that will hold us out until April ... Then at the next Town Meeting, we can ask for additional funding," said Mazzola.
Selectmen appointed Ryan Coyle to the position of full-time patrol officer for the Police Department. Coyle, who has been a Pepperell resident for most of his life, has a bachelor's degree from Fitchburg State University, has graduated from the 242-hour Reserve Police Academy and from the 880-hour Lowell Police Academy. He has served as an officer in other towns and has been on with Pepperell's Auxiliary Police since July 2011.
"(Pepperell) has done a lot for me. It's been a great place to grow up. If I can contribute to keeping it that kind of environment for kids growing up in this area, to keep it safe place, I'll be happy to do that," said Coyle.