The prospect of reopening a nursing home in Calais is inching forward, although how to obtain the rights to the limited number of beds in the state is still a major stumbling block. The topic, along with the development of an alternative ATV trail that would bypass the railway bed, was discussed at a Calais Economic and Community Development Committee meeting on May 5.
The committee discussed proposed bill LD 517, which would allow reimbursement of nursing care facility construction, acquisitions or renovations of up to $2 million with no prior approval. The bill also allows for permitted reimbursement in situations of extraordinary circumstances for residential care facilities. The bill received an ought-to-pass recommendation by the legislature's Health and Human Services Committee on April 13. "If this comes to pass, we need to encourage somebody to do it," said City Manager Jim Porter. Porter described the large socioeconomic impact of a nursing home, which contributes to grocery purchases, gas usage, and sewer and water usage in the community.
One of the barriers to opening a nursing home is the limited allotment of beds for such facilities by the state. As of 2014, the state limit was set at 7,000 beds, the costs for most of which are covered by the state's Medicaid program. The 7,000 beds are hotly contested by individual counties. Porter reported that he had potentially located beds for sale in Aroostook County for about $15,000 each. The most recent nursing home facility in Calais, the Atlantic Rehab and Nursing Center, which closed in 2012, had 90 beds at its highest functioning point.
City Councillor Artie Mingo expressed his desire that an incoming nursing home facility be paired with a daycare, based on available statistics related to cost reduction and benefit to children and the nursing home residents.
It was agreed that Porter would request a meeting with Rod Boula, the CEO of Calais Regional Hospital, to discuss a potentially mutually beneficial collaboration to open a nursing home.
ATV trail extension to Calais
The city also is attempting to move forward with its plans to create an ATV trail that would meet with the existing trail that now ends at Ayers Junction. Porter said that after talking briefly with the Maine Department of Transportation about removing the rail to use the railway, he was "not encouraged." As such, the city is endeavoring to create a trail that would enable riders to get into Calais via the Nash's Lake area off the Shattuck Road by means of a trail that goes up past the quarry and then down Hardscrabble Road to where it joins the snowmobile trail. Councillor Mike Sherrard described the proposed trail as "a beautiful ride."
In response to concerns that ATVs generate noise, Mingo said that there is no difference between an ATV and other vehicles such as motorcycles. Further, Porter clarified, "You won't be able to go willy‑nilly across town, but you can go from point A to point B," meaning ATV riders would have to follow a specific route on the roads to get between trails. "That's what we envision -- to have an ATV‑friendly town."
Porter considered the potential of the snowmobile club and the proposed ATV club pooling their resources. A representative from the snowmobile club said that, as he understands it, the leadership of the snowmobile club "does not want to be responsible for ATVs, as they get enough grief from snowmobiles in the winter."
Before the city can move forward with its intentions to create an alternative trail, however, a club needs to be created and incorporated. The members of the committee will continue to seek potential members for involvement.