By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Spain House project, briefly jeopardized by a divided City Council that threatened to reject a key contract, was saved Tuesday by a narrow vote.
Council members approved a $145,308 deal with Kosciusko House Movers to remove the century-old structure from its current downtown location and place it several blocks away in Mill Village.
It passed 4-3 after heated debate. Opponents were Ward 5 Councilman Jonny Davis, Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan and Ward 2’s council President Fred Pitts.
Pitts and Davis argued too many unknowns remained for the city to commit itself to the contract. Bryan simply said the entire project is “a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
The vote comes two weeks after the council had approved Kosciusko House Mover’s initial bid on the project and also agreed to enter into a covenant with the Mississippi Department of Archives & History.
The covenant, in which Tupelo promises to preserve the house at least 25 years, was necessary before it could accept a $175,000 state grant for the project.
Tupelo must provide a $35,000 match, of which Calvary Baptist Church said it’d contribute $10,000. Calvary owns the property upon which the house sits.
The grant pays for the relocation and stabilization of the two-story structure. Kosciusko House Movers will do both those things, but it won’t lay a foundation at the new site. A separate contract is needed for that.
Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission member Doyce Deas said it will cost a maximum of $32,000 to do that but estimated it’d cost even less and would still be covered by the grant.
In his opposition, Pitts said he couldn’t commit the city to a project whose full costs hadn’t yet been finalized. He worried Tupelo would foot the bill if the foundation price came in higher.
City attorney John Hill had told the council in June that accepting the bid and the covenant essentially locked the city into the deal. But on Monday he said it was still possible to reject the house mover’s contract and the state grant, although it’d be difficult.