News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 11, 2017
Penobscot institution comes to an end
Residential living center closure follows Penobscot Nursing Home

by Anne Berleant

With one patient left, Northern Bay Residential Living Center is days away from permanently shuttering its doors. Its sister institution, Penobscot Nursing Home, once housed in the same building, closed in 2014.

A community and economic linchpin for Penobscot for decades, the 54-bed nursing home lost its state certification for violations in 2014.

Its parent company, ELRCare, operator of five other Maine facilities, had been placed under receivership through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 because of financial difficulties. But in 2009, the two facilities, with 72 patients and 92 staff members were still generating $3 million annually in payroll and paid about $24,000 in property taxes.

However, the 42-bed residential living center, opened in 1997, continued to operate until a December 2016 ruling in Maine Business and Consumer Court allowed DHHS to close it unless a buyer was found by January 15.

That did not happen, and all but one of the 33 residents who were living at Northern Bay in early March have been placed, said DHHS Director of Media Relations Samantha Edwards on Friday, May 5. Sale of the “bed rights,” a commodity separate from the facility, is pending to Woodlands Assisted Living Center in Brewer.

“Per court order, the proceeds of the sale will be used for operation of the Receivership (until all the other ELRCare facilities are sold or closed),” Edwards said. “Any remaining proceeds will be distributed to ELRCare creditors, per further order of the Court.”

One of those creditors is the Town of Penobscot, which holds a lien on the building and land for just under $12,000 for unpaid 2015 taxes, with 2016 taxes still unpaid. However, the fate of the building is unclear, according to Paul Bowen, chairman of the Penobscot Board of Selectmen, although he was doubtful that the town, itself, would be interested in ownership.

“The board hasn’t gotten to the point of discussing that,” he said. “I think, with the cost of maintaining that property, for whatever use it’s going to be in the future, [it] wouldn’t be anything the town would want. It would be a huge encumbrance.”

The total unpaid taxes for 2015 and 2016 is about $23,500—about half of what the facility paid when the nursing home was still in operation.

“The Department does not know whether property taxes and other claims will be paid,” Edwards said. “Payment of creditor claims will be subject to availability of proceeds from the sale of assets and further order of the Court.”

Inquiries by Castine Patriot to Northern Bay Assisted Living Center were referred to the receiver, Bob Armstrong of Armstrong Consulting. Armstrong did not return several messages from the Patriot seeking additional information.