News Feature

Penobscot
Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 10, 2012
Former PNH owner moves to foreclose for nonpayment

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by Faith DeAmbrose

Almost a month after the Maine Department of Health and Human Services filed a motion with Kennebec County Superior Court to close Penobscot Nursing Home, there are still many unanswered questions about the fate of the facility.

As DHHS moves through the legal processes to secure the rights to sell the bed licenses, the owner of the physical property, Wendell Dennison (d/b/a Betlins Corporation) is also taking matters into his owns hands through a legal process aimed at foreclosing on the mortgage.

Marion Dennis, who runs the Betlins Corporation for Dennison, said in a telephone interview on Monday, May 7, that through attorney Richard Silver of Bangor, the Betlins Corporation is about to file a court action seeking to foreclose on the Penobscot Nursing Home building at 15 Main Street, for default to the note and breach of condition of the mortgage.

In May 2006, Dennison agreed to a private sale of Penobscot Nursing Home to the Connecticut-based Elder Care Corporation (d/b/a/ ELRCare Maine, LLC) for the sum of $1.7 million. The payments never came in regularly, explained Marion Dennis, and by 2008 payments stopped completely. Since 2007, Betlins has also continued to pay the property taxes, which amount to roughly $24,000 every year, to keep the property from a tax lien from the town.

The property has been in state-appointed receivership since 2008. Dennis said that in receivership, approximately six payments were made to Dennison, but those, too, stopped.

According to the yet-to-be-filed court action from Betlins, the amount currently owed to the corporation stands at $2,146,394, which includes interest and property taxes.

Dennis said that when Dennison sold PNH to ELRCare Maine he anticipated having the monthly mortgage payments for his family (Betlins is a family corporation) and for his retirement.

The cost to replace the facility’s overboard discharge, an issue the state is trying to correct with all overboard discharge users in the area, was deducted from the original purchase price, said Dennis, so that the new owners could construct a new system.

According to members of Penobscot’s Board of Selectmen, shortly after ELRCare purchased PNH, an easement was given to the facility for a new wastewater treatment plant to be constructed on adjacent land owned by the town. Board members also explained that at the time the Department of Environmental Protection agreed to pay 75 percent of the construction retroactively, similar to what had been done at the school.

As the first mortgage holder on the property, Dennis said that Dennison has not been kept informed by DHHS about its intentions to force the sale of the bed rights and says his foreclosure action is intended to stop the current sale. The foreclosure is also intended to send a message to DHHS, said Dennis, “and the message is: we don’t like what you are doing.” Dennis said she feels DHHS has been less than forthcoming about its dealings with Dennison and its work to secure PNH’s bed rights for the for-profit First Atlantic Corporation.

As for the condition of the facility, Dennis said that its deteriorating condition has been grossly overestimated in recent media accounts. Having worked there for many years, Dennis said the structure is sound and the business ran up until 2008 as a profitable one. “Wendell offered benefits and a 401k for his employees and always had their best interests at heart. It is tough for him to see other people ruining what he and his mother worked so hard to accomplish.”