News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 14, 2014
Selectmen mull over the fate of Penobscot Nursing Home
Bagaduce resident complains of left-over aquaculture gear

Click here to see the full Penobscot Nursing Home Archive.

by Anne Berleant

A review of a proposed septic system plan for the Penobscot Nursing Home led selectmen to discuss the possible fate of the facility—and its storage barn—at their meeting on August 5.

Earlier that day at the nursing home, the facility’s state-appointed receiver, Lisa Gosselin, had outlined a plan to convert the 32 beds left empty when the nursing care portion of the facility closed earlier this month. The beds would be transferred to residential care use or to a yet-to-be-created independent living center. Currently, the home operates 54 beds under Northern Bay Residential Care.

“The issue I see is capitalization,” said Chairman Paul Bowen. “Where’s the money going to come from to make this work?”

Keeping the facility open means keeping the building and property on the town’s tax rolls. While “the payroll is never going to be what it was if the beds are converted to residential care,” said Selectman Harold Hatch, “it would be a shame to see the facility empty.”

If the facility closes, Selectman Stanley Shorey added, and a public institution such as Maine Maritime Academy purchased the facility, “we’ve lost everything.”

Meanwhile, PNH has until 2015 to build a new septic system under the requirements of the receivership. In a letter dated July 25, engineering consultant Andrew McCullough outlined proposed sites for a new septic system near the school, “without any negative impact on the existing [school] system.” The site would “allow us to avoid constructing significant additional access road,” McCullough wrote, asking the selectmen to review the sites before he contacted PNH owner Sifwat Ali.

The town owns the land where the septic tank sites are proposed and provides an easement to PNH.

“I don’t see any problems with this system,” said Hatch, after reviewing the enclosed sketch.

Selectmen are more concerned with the disrepair of the PNH-owned barn across from PNH on Route 199, which several citizens have asked selectmen to address.

Bowen suggested speaking with the PNH insurance company. “Maybe that’s the place to start.”

“If the receiver allows it,” said Shorey. “I suggest people talk to the receiver.”

“I had a chat with her today,” Bowen said.

“What’s she going to do about it?”

“Nothing, essentially,” said Bowen.

In other communications, Ruth Modisette copied selectmen on an email sent to Lieutenant Jay Carroll of the Marine Patrol. Modisette, a riparian owner on the Bagaduce between the reversing falls and the Johnson Point narrows, addressed “concerns over various buoys, pieces of lumber and possibly debris on this section of the Bagaduce,” and noted a limited purpose aquaculture site in proximity, which expired in December 2013. License holders Thomas and Jeremy Atherton have applied for yet-to-be-approved licenses in a different location, according to Modisette, who wrote: “The suggested locations appear to block ingress and egress to the shallow cover” and “there are numerous buoys in this area. None of the buoys are marked…[but] prior to 2013, there were no buoys in this area. At least one of the buoys is attached to a cement block.” She enclosed photos of the area, and of another area “right off my property” that held oyster cages last year despite the Department of Marine Resources not issuing any limited-purpose aquaculture licenses for that site.

Selectmen deemed no action was called for as they were only copied in on the email, with Hatch noting that, similar to land patrols, “marine patrol officers can’t be everywhere at once.”

Bowen pointed out that other agencies set licensing fees to cover the cost of site inspections. “If you’re going to license, you should be able to regulate.”

Finally, selectmen fielded a request for contact information for the 67 cemeteries identified within the town limits by the Maine Old Cemetery Association.

Selectmen were familiar with some cemeteries on the list, and gave a mixed response to hearing that Penobscot, with a population tagged by the 2010 U.S. Census at 1,263 and just under 40 square miles of land, contained that number of cemeteries.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Hatch.

Bowen explained that the request, sent in survey form by the Maine Municipal Association, asked “Whether the ownership is municipal, private or unknown, the contacts for private cemeteries and whether any are accepting burials.”

“I don’t know the answers to any of it,” Bowen said. However, he identified Lenny Bridges as the person who “knows more than anyone else in town” about the topic, called him and left a message.

The completed survey had a return date within the week. “They probably won’t get it by then,” Bowen said. “That’s the problem with the MMA. They don’t understand how these things work.”

Upcoming meetings

Penobscot Selectmen meet every Tuesday (except for the fifth in the month), 7 p.m., at the Town Hall.