No clear answer on Spain House after officials meet

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – City leaders could reject a $161,454 bid to relocate the historic Spain House after failing to reach a consensus Tuesday about lowering costs.
Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission member Doyce Deas said the city could save at least $16,000 by cutting down and hauling away trees on the property instead of letting Kosciusko House Movers do it.
KHM was the sole bidder on the relocation project, which would move the century-old home from its current downtown location to a city-owned lot in Mill Village.
But city attorney John Hill said the municipality can’t remove those jobs from the bid without violating the state’s bid laws. It would have to reject the bid entirely and re-advertize.
That process could take weeks.
Council members, who were at an unofficial work session, offered mixed reactions on the subject. Willie Jennings of Ward 7 said too many people have worked too long on the project to abandon it now. Mike Bryan of Ward 6 said it’s dragged on too many years and needed to end.
Despite KHM owner John Williams’ offer to lower his bid price by 10 percent, the city likely won’t accept it because the savings would come from the tree removal items and thus violate the bid laws.
It’s also unclear whether contract costs could be reduced with a change order after accepting the bid.
Members left the work session with no definitive answer about how to proceed, but some said they’re ready to just vote the bid down. Also in limbo is a $175,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to pay for house relocation costs.
If the city accepts it, it would be responsible for a $35,000 match. The grant designated $100,000 for the move, $25,000 to prepare a new foundation, and $50,000 to stabilize and “moth ball” the house until later renovation.
Williams said his bid includes stabilizing and moth balling the house but not building a new foundation.
That grant has been on the council’s table for weeks. If the city votes that down, too, it will lose funding for the project.
The city and the Historic Preservation Commission have until Oct. 1 to move the Spain House before it reverts back to its previous owner, Calvary Baptist Church.
The church, which offered to pay $10,000 toward the relocation project, signed the house over to the city two years ago with the understanding it would be moved. If not, it plans to demolish the structure so it can develop the site for its congregation.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com