SEARSPORT — Officials of Bayview Manor, a home for the elderly on Main Street, say their 26 residents were denied access Friday to the Red Cross emergency storm shelter at MBNA in Belfast — and they say the reason for the denial was because the residents were not from Belfast.
But that claim — and rumors that the MBNA shelter has not allowed any non-Belfast residents into the shelter — raises the hackles on Rick Farris, director of the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency.
Farris said Wednesday it was he who told Bayview employees that the bus load of seniors in their 70s and 80s could not use the shelter at the MBNA office complex on Route 3.
“It’s simple,” he said. “When the MBNA shelter was set up it was set up as just that — a shelter. It was not set up as a place to handle medically needy people. Technically, Red Cross shelters don’t handle people with medical needs. They’re referred to hospitals.”
Farris’ original intent was to use the headquarters of the emergency management agency as a shelter for medically needy people, but he said that by Friday it became apparent the space was too small. By Saturday, the Red Cross shelter at MBNA was set up for medical services, he said. Red Cross officials at the shelter then contacted Bayview Manor and offered shelter space.
But according to Elaine Green, the administrator of Bayview Manor, the elderly care facility by then had worked with the Searsport Fire Department and the First Congregational Church of Searsport to establish a shelter at the church.
Priscilla King, a member of the church who helped set up the Searsport shelter, said the impetus for its creation was that the 26 Bayview residents needed a place to go. But the shelter has remained open, even though Bayview’s power was returned Saturday night and the residents moved back home Sunday. About 16 Searsport and Stockton Springs residents have stayed at the shelter each night since Sunday.
Farris said he does not know how Bayview officials got the idea that their residents were being turned away because they didn’t live in Belfast. In fact, the MBNA shelter has taken in residents from throughout Waldo County.
But Green dismisses Farris’ argument that the MBNA shelter was not ready for medically needy visitors. “They didn’t need a nursing staff,” Green said. “We had a full staff to help our residents, to pass out medications — to aid them in every way we normally would.”
Asked why the residents were not moved to the MBNA shelter Saturday, Green said the move would have been added trauma. “These are people who are 80-something years old,” she said. “You can’t expect them to just keep getting on buses and moving every day.” She described Bayview Manor as a residential care facility, which is in between a nursing home and senior apartments in the level of care the residents require.
Green said she and the Bayview Manor staff remain disappointed with the Belfast shelter despite the offer Saturday to take in the residents.
Farris noted that Searsport actually is located within the Pine Tree Chapter of the Red Cross and its residents should go to the Red Cross shelter in Bangor. But for practical purposes, shelters normally take in those who come for help, he said.
Green said going to a different shelter did not seem to be an option Friday. “The roads were so bad that we were lucky just to get to Belfast,” Green said.