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Eisenhower and his wife continued to run their 230-acre farm and were responsible for all maintenance and upkeep. After he died, his wife, Mamie, was granted a special-use permit to live at the house and use the surrounding 14 acres, and she remained responsible for insurance, repairs and maintenance costs.

Lyndon B. Johnson also signed a life estate agreement with the Park Service, but neither his presidential library nor the Park Service at the Johnson National Historic Park has a copy of the document, so it’s unclear what agreement they reached.

Mr. Bishop, the congressman from Utah, said at the very least the government should come up with a policy for the future, since other presidents’ homes likely will be acquired in the coming years.

David Barna, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said lessons were learned from the handling of the Eisenhower estate - in particular, that deferring maintenance until after the Park Service takes control of the property “does not always bode well for the service in those cases whereby the public will be introduced to such an improved property.”

He said the Park Service took a pre-emptive approach to maintenance of the Carter estate, “commensurate with ensuring this historic site will be ready for the public’s viewing upon the expiration of the Carters’ life tenancy.”

“When Congress authorizes the home of a former president or other nationally prominent figure as a historic site to be viewed by the public, it is expected the buildings and grounds associated with such places will be maintained to the highest standard,” Mr. Barna said.

A bill establishing the Carter National Historic Site was passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan on Dec. 23, 1987, and from the beginning, ballooning costs appear to have been a worry. While the bill was still in committee, lawmakers added language making sure the government didn’t spend too much to refurbish Plains High School.

Thirteen former presidents have properties preserved as national historic sites.

Mr. Clinton’s birthplace home in Hope, Ark., was incorporated into the National Park Service in December. A 2002 law authorized the government to buy the Reagan boyhood home, but the Park Service’s offer was rejected by the Reagan Boyhood Home Preservation Foundation.

The budget for the overall Carter National Historic Site has grown 32 percent over five years, from $1.29 million in 2006 to a request of $1.704 million in 2010.