The former Sacred Heart Catholic Church property at 72 Pleasant St. in Waterville. The City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to consider whether the city should buy the former Sacred Heart Church. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to consider whether the city should buy the former Sacred Heart Church for use as a soup kitchen, an overnight shelter for homeless people and other community purposes.

The vacant church property at 72 Pleasant St. and 5 Middle St. formerly housed a soup kitchen in the basement that was not affiliated with the church itself.

Jennifer Bergeron, a partner in the business BACAS, wanted to buy the property from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and turn it into an events center, but she pulled the proposal in August after receiving pushback from neighbors.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Maureen Ausbrook, who runs Starfish Village, a ministry of the Waterville Congregational United Church of Christ, has proposed the property be used to provide food for people in need, serve as an overnight shelter and be a warming and cooling center. Starfish Village’s primary focus is to help families become stable.

Councilors on Tuesday are scheduled to consider directing City Manager Steve Daly to investigate or pursue buying the church “for use as a feeding location and overnight shelter for the homeless population, and for other community uses,” according to the council agenda.

Mayor Jay Coelho said over the weekend that the proposal for the city to buy Sacred Heart Church may include using it for not only helping hungry and homeless people but also a potential space for council and other city meetings.


City Councilor Claude Francke, Ward 6, which includes the church property, said Monday that he learned about the church proposal only last Friday when the council agenda was issued.

“My No. 1 issue is the First Amendment issue — the entanglement of the city with a religious organization,” Francke said.

He said any plan by the city to buy the church and lease the property to a religious organization should include a request for proposals or competitive bidding.

Meanwhile, Coelho said the council Tuesday could vote on a plan to give $400,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act money to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter to be used for several purposes, including to help house homeless people who are no longer allowed to stay in hotels. He said it would cost a lot less to form agreements with private landlords than to house them in hotels.

In other business, the council will consider taking the first of two votes needed to accept $32,904 from the Friends of Quarry Road to buy and install an alpine rope tow at Quarry Road Recreation Area.

The group raised the money for the rope tow, installation and staffing, according to a memo from Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan. The rope tow would be installed on a grassy area opposite the snowmaking center at the bottom of the former alpine hill. Skehan’s memo says that area would have to be closed to snow sledding and the department would instead encourage sledding at both the Green Street Park in the city’s South End and the North Street Recreation Area.


“It is anticipated that the tow will run weekends 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting mid-January through February vacation, possibly with some daylight after-school hours, depending on demand,” the memo says. “We propose a flat, all ages $10 day ticket price and $50 season pass price, with sales handled through the Welcome Center. The Quarry Road Ski Club is organizing a learn-to-ski program for children, grades 4-8 this year, with program capacity set at 25.”

Councilors also plan to consider taking a second, final vote to approve borrowing $5.28 million for capital improvements, including about $2 million for improvements and expansions to the North Street Recreation Area and Pine Ridge Recreation Area.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at The Elm at 21 College Ave. and the public may attend or take part remotely via a link on the city’s website.

Councilors also will consider:

• Approving a lease at the city’s Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport with MEVS Energy Waterville so a solar farm can be located there.

• Awarding a $27,575 contract to MB Tractor Equipment of Fairfield for a wide area mower for the Parks and Recreation Department.


• Awarding a $32,100 contract with Municipal Resources Inc. for a benefit and salary study to be done for the city.

• Referring to the Planning Board a petition requesting stadium lighting be allowed at Drummond Field.

• Authorizing the Police Department to adopt a K-9 program to be used for crime prevention, criminal apprehension and locating missing people.

• Whether there is interest in holding future council and Planning Board meetings at Albert S. Hall School.

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