Closed in 2021, the Island Nursing Home in Deer Isle is trying to raise $3 million for a July reopening as a residential care facility. Credit: Ethan Genter / BDN

A shuttered nursing home on Deer Isle says its plan to return as a residential care facility by July hinges on raising $3 million and it is asking towns to pitch hundreds of thousands of dollars to help.

The Island Nursing Home, which closed in 2021, sent out fundraising letters to residents across the region in an appeal for cash this fall and nursing home officials stopped in Stonington Monday to start their campaign to get seven neighboring towns to contribute a combined $700,000 at their respective town meetings this spring.

The nursing home is hoping that Stonington, Deer Isle, Isle au Haut, Sedgwick, Brooksville, Brooklin and Blue Hill will each come up with $100,000, Skip Greenlaw, the nursing home board’s treasurer, said. The money would go toward start-up costs for the facility, though some towns have initially greeted the proposal with skepticism.

“If we are not able to lay out a plan to raise sufficient capital to cover our expenses for an extended period of time and pay for start-up costs, we do not expect the State of Maine will approve our application for a conditional license,” the board wrote in the letter sent to residents across the region this fall.

Officials in Deer Isle and Stonington aren’t sure it is wise to hand over the money, though. Relations between the nursing home and the island towns  have been tense at times, and town officials often feel they aren’t getting the full picture on what the home’s board is doing.

A six-figure funding request from a nonprofit at the town meeting is also unprecedented for Deer Isle, said James Fisher, the town manager. Nonprofits often ask for a few thousand dollars and he wasn’t sure how Deer Isle could come up with such a sum without raising taxes.

“It’s a real challenge for us,” Fisher said. “The mood [of the select board] right now isn’t terribly supportive.”

Stonington officials worried that this might become a regular request of towns, though Greenlaw said he hoped it was a one-time ask because board members feel long-term fundraising is neither good policy nor sustainable.

Greenlaw had already floated a similar idea this summer where the towns would give $700,000. Instead of going toward reopening, it was pitched as a way for the home to keep the rights to its skilled care beds. But within a few weeks — before any of the towns could plausibly put the idea before town meeting — the nursing home sold the rights to the beds to a facility in Fort Kent, effectively ending any hopes of the return of skilled care.

Some island officials also question if the home is doing its due diligence in finding money. There is a special provision for nursing homes on islands that allow them to get a higher reimbursement rate for patients from the state. The Island Nursing Home hasn’t taken advantage of that, Linda Nelson, the Stonington economic development director and member of the town’s health care task force, recently learned.

Stonington Select Board member Evelyn Duncan was miffed that it took a town task force to suss out these types of opportunities while the home is asking taxpayers to pony up.

“You need to check every single fricking angle you can come up with,” she said.

The nursing home has about $256,000 in contributions already, according to the appeal letter, and Greenlaw characterized the fundraising as “slow.” If it does re-open, the home could also take on other money-making ventures, such as adult day care.

The nursing home board plans to hold a public meeting to go over its reopening plan at the Deer Isle-Stonington High School at 6 p.m. on Nov. 30.