By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The state agency controlling a grant for the relocation of downtown’s historic Spain House won’t require Tupelo to keep and maintain the structure beyond reason, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Michelle Jones with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History told the City Council it’s sufficient to simply move the house “and mothball it” as a condition of the $175,000 grant the agency agreed to award.
“It’s not the intent of the Department of Archives and History to force the city of Tupelo to restore this property to pristine condition,” Jones said.
Her statement was backed up by a letter from MDAH Director H.T. Holmes, who essentially shared the same opinion.
Jones appeared before the council to explain an agreement the city must sign before accepting the grant. The agreement states Tupelo must maintain the Spain House for at least 25 years, a commitment which prompted concern among council members who fear untold expenditures on century-old home.
Some hinted last week they’d reject the agreement – and thus the grant – before saddling taxpayers with renovation costs.
Such action would put the house at risk of demolition. Calvary Baptist Church owns the land upon which the house sits. It gave the city the house on the condition it moved it within two years. If not, the church can evoke its right to tear it down. The two-year deal ends Oct. 1.
Church attorney Greg Pirkle said the church likely would be flexible, allowing the city as much time as needed to move the house, as long as actual work begins by Oct. 1.
Council members expressed more favorable opinions of the grant and the 25-year commitment after hearing from Jones but wanted the assurances written into the agreement before approving it.
If that happens, the council might OK the deal next week. However, some members still worry about the city’s liability and prefer postponing the grant until the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission forms its own nonprofit arm.