Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 19, 2023 and The Weekly Packet, January 19, 2023
Deer Isle won’t act on INH board $100K ask
by Leslie Landrigan
Deer Isle officials rejected the Island Nursing Home board’s request for $100,000, while the Stonington select board put it on file for later consideration.
The INH board submitted each petition after each town’s deadline. On January 12, the Deer Isle select board did not take up INH’s appeal for money. Selectman Ronnie Eaton told two INH board members present at a meeting—President Leon Weed and Treasurer Skip Greenlaw—that there’s nothing more they can expect from Deer Isle, according to Town Manager Jim Fisher.
“They didn’t have enough signatures; they delivered it after the deadline and the wording was incorrect,” Fisher said in a phone interview.
Five days later, Greenlaw got a different response from the Stonington select board. Selectmen said they’d keep the petition on file and perhaps put it on a referendum ballot for a vote in November.
“You can’t turn down a citizen’s petition,” Town Manager Kathleen Billings told the select board.
Greenlaw said it didn’t really matter to INH if it received financial help from the towns later in the year. “It would be better to have it this year, but if it comes in November, that would be fine, too,” he said.
The INH board wants $100,000 each from seven towns that have sent residents to the facility: Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Isle au Haut and Sedgwick, in addition to the two island towns. The board is soliciting donations from the towns and individuals to offset expected operating losses if and when it reopens in July. Greenlaw said he expects state regulators to approve or deny the license by January 20.
The INH board plans to reopen as a residential care facility with 32 beds after it closed in October 2021. The board hopes eventually to add skilled nursing care, Greenlaw said.
He also told the Stonington select board he’s optimistic the state Legislature will vote to raise the reimbursement rate for residential care. The state will pay $119 a day to care for a residential care patient, but Greenlaw anticipated it will cost $220.
For both towns, $100,000 is a big ask, officials said. The request also comes late in the budget-planning process.
Fisher said he should have had Deer Isle’s budget done by now.
“I can’t get the budget done if I don’t know if there’s going to be $100,000 in it or not $100,000,” he said.”I’m just not happy with a third party coming in and asking for $100,000.”
Fisher also questioned whether reopening the INH is worth it to the town. “We all want to have a nursing home, but that’s not what they’re proposing,” he said. “They’re proposing a residential care facility.”
Deer Isle will put all third-party requests to appear on the referendum ballot this year, just before town meeting on Monday, March 6.