OAKLAND — Town officials are moving forward with a plan to buy the vacant St. Theresa Catholic Church and convert it to a town office and community center.

Town Manager Gary Bowman said Wednesday officials are working to estimate the cost of retrofitting the facility for municipal use in order to present the plan to voters in May, if the town government deems it affordable.

“As everybody knows, the church has accepted our offer, and we’re now on the fast track,” Bowman told the Town Council.

Bowman confirmed Tuesday the Diocese of Portland has accepted the town’s offer to pay $150,000 for the 6,837-square-foot facility, which has been on the market since late last year.

The diocese stopped offering regular Mass there in 2012.

Bowman said he met Wednesday with architect Brian Duff in preparation for drawing “quotable” plans for the retrofit that will enable the town to bid out the project.

He told the council he hopes to hire Duff, but he won’t find out until Thursday or Friday how much Duff’s services are projected to cost.

Meanwhile, Bowman said the Diocese of Portland spent about $200,000 a few years ago upgrading the facility’s heating system and insulation.

In 2012, the last time the church was heated for the full year, about 3,800 gallons of heating oil was consumed, he said.

At current wholesale rates, that comes to about $7,312 a year in heating expenses. Bowman said the larger facility will cost more to operate than the existing police department. The department is currently in a turn-of-the-century house, which he said the town probably would demolish when the police move into the current Town Office.

However, the church building, which would house the town manager and clerk’s offices, as well as the assessor’s office, code enforcement and parks and recreation, if all goes as planned, could generate revenue by renting space to the public for events such as parties to offset the extra cost.

“What we’re going to gain out of that is ADA compliance,” Bowman said. “It’s going to increase our ability to have something that’s going to offer a little bit more to the general public in Oakland, and we’re going to potentially be in a position where we’re going to be able to generate some revenue.”

In addition to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance for municipal offices, town officials plan for the Parks and Recreation Department to provide a host of new recreation programs for residents in the larger space.

The town also plans to use the space for meetings, voting, theatrical performances, indoor sports and clubs.

Bowman said the town has not signed a contract yet. Even when it does, it will put down only a $5,000 refundable deposit to keep the property off the market for 120 days while municipal officials complete cost estimates for the voters to consider during the Town Meeting on May 5.

Voters rejected a proposal five years ago to spend $4.5 million to build a municipal facility to house all the town’s offices, the Fire Department and the Police Department.

Bowman stressed the historic value of the church, which was built in 1838 as the First Methodist Church and taken over by the Catholic diocese in the late 1800s.

“This building holds significant meaning to our community,” Bowman said. “I mean this particular facility has probably touched more souls than probably every other building that exists in this town.”

At least two other area churches are known to be vacant. In Fairfield, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church on High Street remained listed for $200,000 on Wednesday.

In North Vassalboro, St. Bridget Catholic Church also is not offering regular Mass.

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @evanbelanger

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