The Lebanon City Council unanimously approved spending $250,000 on renovations to the Mitchell House at its meeting Tuesday.

The city purchased the Mitchell House earlier this year for $1.15 million, citing the need for more space for city offices. The building, which until recently was the national headquarters from the Sigma Pi fraternity, is a 10,600-square-foot National Historic Landmark that was built in 1910.

"Purchasing the Mitchell House has solved a lot of problems," said Mayor Bernie Ash. "It helps preserve the Mitchell House and it also helps with how cramped the city hall has become."

The city requested an estimate of all possible renovations, as well as an estimate on what it would take to restore the furniture and artwork inside the house from Mike Manous, owner of Lebanon-based Manous Designs. Manous came back with $750,000.

"The four porches are in really good shape. A few gutters and things need repairs as well as a few windows," Manous said. "It's not that far from being move in ready."

Manous was also responsible for the restoration at Cracker Barrel's headquarters in the late 1990s.

Resident Lori Hicks said she felt the budget for purchasing and restoring the building was excessive.

"I've heard from the city that the budget is $250,000 but I've heard from other sources that it's $750,000," Hicks said before the council voted. "Where is that half million coming from?"

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Manous and Ash explained that the initial $750,000 bid was for everything that could be done to the house, rather than just the few things that need to be done in order for the city to move in.

For now, the city intends to spend only the $250,000.

"I think we were all a little shocked by the initial bid," Ash said. "That bid is more like a wish list for things down the road. We only have a few repairs here and there that need to be done before we can start using it."

Ash said the overcrowding problem has motivated the city to finish the project quickly and get moved in.

"Our engineering and planning departments are working in the hallways because we're so overcrowded," Ash said. "I am very proud that we're able to solve the overcrowding, save the Mitchell House, and save the city money."

In other action, the City Council:

Unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Laguardo Utility District for the termination of water service for failure to pay sewer charges. Voted 6-1 to create a board to assist in the management of sidewalks, bike lanes and trails. Unanimously voted to amend zoning on Tuckers Gap Road from Rural Residential to Medium Density Residential. Unanimously voted to amend zoning on Maple Hill Road from Low Density Residential to Medium Density Residential. Unanimously voted to amend the Future Land Use Plan by changing 1427 Alhambra Drive from Medium Density Residential to Low Density Residential. Unanimously voted to amend the official Future Land Use Plan by changing unaddressed properties and 1523 Murfreesboro Road from Low Density Residential to Commercial Office. Unanimously voted to increase the hotel/motel tax from 2% to 4% and establish a fund for tourism and economic development.

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