Parish leaders uncertain what to do with building which has been vacant since 2009
Maintaining the former St. Mary’s Catholic School in Lake Church is costing the Divine Savior parish thousands of dollars annually, parish officials said.
The school has been moth-balled but there are no plans to raze it, Parish Council President Don Hamm said.
However, when more land is needed for the cemetery, that is a possibility.
All options are being explored for the school that has been closed since 2009, Hamm said.
“The church is a church and it will continue to be a church,” Hamm said. “We have talked about needing more land for the cemetery. After that, we’ll probably go through the process of elimination and see if there is any possibility of a sale.”
Harsh winters like last year have been adding up, Hamm said.
“With the winter we had last year, you get quite a budget hit on something that you aren’t using to keep it maintained,” Hamm said.
The land owned by the Divine Savior Parish includes parcels in residential districts, which limits future use, Hamm said.
St. Mary’s Lake Church merged with Holy Rosary in Fredonia to form Divine Savior Parish in 2012.
The church still holds weekly Mass on Thursday mornings, has weddings, funerals and First Communion ceremonies held at the Lake Church chapel, Father Todd Budde said.
The parish rectory has been rented for many years and the parish center is used for meetings.
Budde said potential buyers have asked about the school the last few years, only to have them back out.
“People will say they are interested and then back out,” he said. “We have been reactive the last few years and we’re looking at being a little more proactive to be fiscally responsible.”
The Town of Belgium explored the parish center for a new town hall, but turned away after the cost proved too high.
Hamm said that option is off the table.
“The Town has been fiscally conservative and never carried any debt,” he said. “I think it would cost them too much to remodel and they wouldn’t want to look at buying an old building.”
The school was founded in 1887, but declining enrollment eventually forced its closure.
There is a lot of history in the building, Budde said.
“We always respect history the best way possible,” he said. “If it did get sold or taken down, some people would be quite sad. I’ve had others who have come to me and asked why we keep it up.”
Budde said if the school was sold, a sale would have to be approved by the Parish Council and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Hamm said no sale of any buildings are imminent, but the council will evaluate its options this winter.
“We may end up keeping it for a very long time,” he said.