BATH — A facility that has served as a home for many elders for more than 90 years may be expanding next year.

There are 37 assisted living apartments in the Plant Home on Washington Street, which overlooks the Kennebec River and was opened in 1917. More than 30 are tax-credit, low-income apartments, a nod to the vision of founder Thomas Plant.

“This home is founded on my sincere belief that those who have lived honest, industrious lives and are without means or friends to take care for them, have earned the right to be cared for,” Plant, who built wealth in the shoe industry said nearly a century ago. “Only through the labor and expenditures of others is it possible.”

Five other units in the approximately 50,000-square-foot structure are market rate and also offer assisted living services. The 30-acre property also includes 11 private independent living homes (including five duplexes) at market rate.

“This is, to me, the perfect place,” said Don Capoldo, administrator of the Plant Home since 2005. “Because we take care of people whether they have any money or not. About half … our residents could live wherever they want; they have enough assets to do so. The other half qualify for institutional Medicaid, many below the poverty level, and no one knows who is who except for myself and my business manager.”

As a not-for-profit institution, the Plant Home raises money through events such as galas and fundraising appeals. “The community has supported this home for years,” Capoldo said.

Still, these are hard economic times for many institutions.

“As a community we simply cannot afford to fund all our not-for-profits right now,” Capoldo said. “… So we have to search for alternative ways of raising money. And one of those, obviously, would be to add more rooms at market rate. But the byproduct of that is we have more rooms. So we can have more people that live in Bath, stay in Bath. … We’ll be able to keep people who have lived here their whole life in Bath longer, and by doing that we’ll be able to sustain our endowment longer. So we feel that everyone wins.”

The Plant Home will also be able to subsidize more rooms for low-income residents, Capoldo added. A lack of income does not necessarily mean a lack of assets, he said; some residents earn income through those assets and therefore do not require subsidy.

Half of the home’s 37 residents are receiving subsidies, he said, and the home subsidized more than $500,000 last year.

“With the added market rate units we may be able to get to three-quarters who have no money,” Capoldo said. “We’ll always go on a first-come, first-serve basis, but there are times when, if the endowment right now can’t support someone who has absolutely no money, no income, no assets, they may not be able to come in. And we don’t want that to be the case. We want to be able to say yes to them.”

About 90 percent of Plant Home residents are from Bath, Capoldo said, while the other 10 percent have Bath ties.

He would like to add either apartments or condominiums to the complex; he is waiting for a market study to be complete to determine which model is best.

“We’re going to let the profit flow, the cash flow dictate how we subsidize,” he said. “In here, we have to rent to 32 low income individuals. But if … let’s say a year after we build we’re full, and someone runs out of money in their apartment on the campus, we’ll have the ability to subsidize them. It’ll allow us greater flexibility.

“We’re not saying that they’ll all be market rate,” Capoldo added, explaining that the Plant Home does not want any of its residents to move out because they do not have any more funds. “So we will be able to fund any room on this campus.”

Capoldo said the Plant Home’s goal is to build 72 new units in phases, starting next spring. Although neighbors have asked why so many units are necessary, Capoldo said, the profit from that many units, as opposed to 10 or 20, would allow the home to significantly subsidize many more units. The break even point for 72 units could be about 60 percent market rate, Capoldo said, referring to very preliminary figures.

“Then it would give us the opportunity to either subsidize the additional or offer a greater subsidy in this building,” he said. “We want to be able to take care of as many people as we can and subsidize as many people as we can.”

Capoldo said he hopes it is a plan that the community will support. While he wants to keep the Plant Home going strong and take care of its elders, “we recognize that there are other lives that would be affected by this, so we want to take everything into consideration.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or [email protected].

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capoldo.jpgDon Capoldo is administrator of the Plant Home in Bath, which may begin renovations next year. (Lear photo)
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