April 08, 2020

Judge rules for DeBeck, city in ice rink suit

BREWER – A Penobscot County Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of the city and Councilor Manley DeBeck in their dispute with the owner of an Acme Road ice rink.

Representatives of Delta Hockey LLC, of Bangor, which owns the T.J. Ryan Center, claimed that DeBeck chased away a potential buyer for the rink when he said at an August 2005 Brewer Youth Hockey League meeting that the city was going to take the rink because of unpaid taxes.

Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ruled last month that because DeBeck was acting as a member of the City Council at the time, he is protected under state law from any civil action because he is considered a city employee.

“DeBeck’s responsibilities covered concerns about the future of the ice rink, and public statements about its financial status made in response to the inquires of others are within the scope of these responsibilities,” Hjelm’s decision, issued Sept. 26, states. “Further, DeBeck’s public statements were not prohibited by any policy or other limitations on his function.”

City ordinances allow Brewer to place a lien on and eventually take properties from people who do not pay their bills.

As of the August 2005 meeting, Delta Hockey LLC of Bangor, which owns the rink, owed the city approximately $28,000 and the city had filed tax liens on the property, court documents state.

“We felt from the beginning that the suit was without merit and were pleased that Judge Hjelm concurred,” City Manager Steve Bost said Thursday.

Delta Hockey’s attorney, David Van Dyke of Lewiston, appealed the judgment to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court the day after the decision was issued, Ed Benjamin, defense counsel for the city, said Monday.

The appeal is not expected to be considered until next year.

NextGen Hockey Group, the current operators of the Acme Road ice rink, have run into financial issues operating the facility over the last year but are working to extend a lease for the property that expires Oct. 5, spokeswoman Linda Williams said Thursday.

“It’s going to stay open one way or another,” she said. “We just went so far into the hole.”

NextGen Hockey Group is composed of Hampden residents Robbie Snow, who is Linda Williams’ son, and her husband Wes Williams, along with Newburgh resident Lee Miller, who is Wes Williams’ stepson.

The group is working with property manager Lou Janicki to come up with a solution, Williams said.

“We’re negotiating a year extension,” she said.

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