SOUTH PORTLAND — Members of the City Council faced a difficult decision at an Oct. 6 meeting, after receiving an application for a liquor license from a former drunk-driving offender.
The council ultimately decided to grant the license to the applicant, Peter J. Verrill Jr., of Falmouth, with the provision that the decision be re-evaluated in a year.
Verrill, 38, owns Foreside Tavern in Falmouth, as well as Outliers Eatery in Portland, and plans to open the SoPo Bar and Grill at 740 Broadway. He plans to manage the restaurant with Gary and Tasha Hurtubise, who will oversee its operations.
Verrill was convicted of five Class D and Class E crimes between 2000 and 2012. Charges included operating under the influence, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, speeding, violating bail conditions and, most recently, leaving the scene of an accident, according to previous reports.
“Failure to follow the law means that one may not follow the rules,” Police Chief Edward Googins told the council. He said he was also concerned that only the most recent conviction, in December 2012, was included in the application.
Verrill said that he did not mean to omit the convictions, but knew that a background check would be performed and figured it would show the past charges.
“We just want to do our best to add to the community and start a good business,” Verrill said, adding that he’d already invested $200,000 in the establishment.
He also told councilors that he was convicted of the OUI when he was much younger – 21 – and that since his 2012 incident, he’s received weekly counseling.
Verrill said that he currently holds three liquor licenses and has never had a problem with his restaurants. His businesses have been financially successful and positive additions to the area, he added.
Councilor Tom Blake was skeptical that giving an OUI offender a liquor license was wise, and said he had “grave concerns” about the matter since the city prefers to run “clean businesses.”
The other councilors were in favor of giving the benefit of the doubt to Verrill, who ran into similar problems obtaining licenses in Portland.
Councilor Melissa Linscott said she was happy to see new business in the area, and that perhaps a sort of performance evaluation could be conducted in a year. Councilor Michael Pock pointed out that the issues were of a personal nature, not about a business, and that adding stipulations did not allow Verrill the same chance as other applicants.
Mayor Jerry Jalbert said that he was in favor of passing the motion to grant the license with the knowledge that, should the terms of the license be broken, immediate action could be taken. Googins’ concerns were valid, he said, and re-evaluation would be prudent.
The councilors voted 4-2 to amend the motion to include a check-in after one year, with Pock and Councilor Patti Smith dissenting. The motion to grant the license then passed 5-1, with Jalbert dissenting.
In other business, the council unanimously passed an ordinance amendment to clarify rules about solid waste collection for apartment and condominium complexes. The council also voted to schedule a future workshop to discuss implementation of recycling services for complexes.
Originally, the ordinance stated that complexes of up to eight units would be eligible for municipal solid waste services. The new stipulation limits eligibility to four units. The limit will take effect Oct. 26, and will affect only those complexes that were not receiving services as of Sept. 3.
According to Gailey, city staff requested the amendment mainly to clarify the language and codify the existing practice of requiring condominium and apartment complexes to pay for the removal of solid waste. Large numbers of such complexes sprang up in the 1980s and ’90s, and the city soon became overburdened and unable to properly handle collection and disposal.
The practice has not changed, though curbside recycling has been added and the city contracted collection services with Pine Tree Waste in 2007.
Complex owners have approached city staff over the years, Gailey said, and the issue was discussed in 2008 and 2009. City staff felt that apartment and condo associations should be held responsible for their residents’ solid waste, although the council did direct city staff to provide recycling totes to any complexes that should wish to utilize them.
According to Gailey, residential property owners are being served effectively and complexes are commercial buildings and should be managed as such.
Gailey said that it is not unusual for cities to exclude complexes’ solid waste from municipal services.
Councilor Thomas Blake said that the ordinance should be passed, since passage would simply be putting the current policy into writing.
Louis Maietta, president of condo association Parkway Pines, on Highland Avenue, requested that the council consider holding a workshop about the issue of limiting collection to complexes with four units or less, as well as the possible initiation of a recycling program for apartments and condos.
The councilors voted unanimously in support of the suggestion.
“We want to reduce refuse and also treat everyone equally,” Blake said, adding that a future workshop, following language clarification, would allow just that.
“It seems there are many residents who are in this situation who would like to explore ways to recycle, ways to reduce their refuse,” Smith said.
Jalbert said that implementation of a new program for complexes would likely raise property taxes above the usual annual increase of 2 percent, and that the city might even want to look into different waste collection models, such as having residents pay on a per-bag basis.