OAKLAND — A new town office and community center could be in Oakland’s future.

Town Manager Gary Bowman confirmed Thursday the town has made an offer to buy vacant St. Theresa Church on Church Street.

The 6,837-square-foot building on 1.29 acres of land went on the market late last year. The church closed in 2012.

Bowman said the town would relocate its town office — including the assessor’s office, code enforcement, and parks and recreation department — to the church rectory.

The church building would be used as a community center and as meeting space for the town, allowing several new community programs, he said.

Bowman hopes to learn Friday whether the church has accepted the town’s offer. The Diocese of Portland, which owns the property, has already rejected an initial offer from the town.

Bowman declined to give the amount of either offer, but said they were both less than the $170,000 asking price. With other parties interested, at least four offers have been made, he said.

The church is listed by Malone Commercial Brokers of Lewiston.

If the diocese accepts the offer, the purchase would still require approval from the voters at Town Meeting May 5.

Bowman said the town is seeking a 120-day due diligence contract that would keep the property off the market, giving the town time to gather estimates for renovating the facility and to seek approval from the voters.

The proposed purchase comes after the voters rejected five years ago a proposal to build a new town office, police department and fire department.

“The last project was $4.5 million to do, and this project is going to be a fraction of that,” he said.

Key to the proposal, Bowman admits, is winning support from the town. If approved, he said, the purchase would offer multiple benefits.

First, it would allow the Police Department to move from a converted turn-of-the-century house into the current town office.

That would address space and safety issues at the police department, which Bowman said is too small and offers several small places for escapees to hide.

It would also correct compliance issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act, closing the current police department, which is not ADA compliant, and removing code enforcement and the assessor’s office from the upstairs of the town office.

“These are issues that need to be addressed,” said Bowman, who served 15 years as an Oakland police officer before taking the reins as town manager.

Perhaps of more interest to residents, the proposed purchase would provide additional space for the Parks and Recreation Department, allowing for a host of new activities and programs.

Parks and Recreation Director Eric Seekins said he envisions a broad spectrum of activities and programs being made available to all ages, ranging from pre-school children to senior citizens.

Current ideas include indoor basketball, volleyball and floor hockey, an outdoor skating rink in the parking lot, after-school programs, club activities, as well as exercise programs and classes for adults and seniors, and board and table games.

Seekins said use of the space would not be limited to programs and clubs sponsored by the town, and its meeting space and large kitchen would be open for external parties and gatherings, making it a true community center.

“I’ve always thought the town’s role is to give people as much help as we can in whatever form that takes,” Seekins said. “If we can help someone out, let’s do it.”

Bowman said the City Council would meet in the building as well, allowing more people to attend. Additionally, the annual town meeting, normally held at Messalonskee High School, would be relocated there along with the town’s polling place, currently at Williams Elementary School.

The large church space could even play host to theatrical performances and other cultural events, he said.

Built in 1838, the church was originally used as the First Methodist Church, and was taken over by the Catholic diocese in the late 1800s, Bowman said. The adjacent rectory was constructed in 1967.

Bowman said the town would have to install a sprinkler system and make other changes requiring an architect to draw quotable plans. However, the building has an updated heating system and has a solid foundation with no structural problems, he said.

“I think it’s so important to keep this building part of our town, because it holds such an important part of our history,” Bowman said.

Bowman confirmed the town would not demolish the church steeple if it purchases the building.

“I think it adds character,” he said.

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @evanbelanger

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