Bourbon County

Millersburg military school scheduled to be auctioned at master commissioner's sale Oct. 1

Forest Hill Military Academy, formerly known as Millersburg Military Institute, is scheduled to be auctioned Oct. 1. The 122-year-old school has struggled financially in recent years.
Forest Hill Military Academy, formerly known as Millersburg Military Institute, is scheduled to be auctioned Oct. 1. The 122-year-old school has struggled financially in recent years. Lexington Herald-Leader

MILLERSBURG — Forest Hill Military Academy, Kentucky's only military school, is in default on loans and is scheduled to be auctioned at a master commissioner's sale on Oct. 1.

Bourbon Circuit Judge Paul Isaacs awarded a judgment earlier this month against the owner, U.S. Army Cadet Corps, and ordered the property to be sold to pay the lender, Cynthiana-based Farmers Deposit Bank.

The bank filed suit against the Cadet Corps seeking $535,188 plus interest. Court records indicate the Cadet Corps had two loans totaling $1 million borrowed from the bank. A senior loan officer said in an affidavit that the school had not made payments since August 2014.

The property was appraised Sept. 15 at $675,000, according to court records.

The school — previously known as Millersburg Military Institute — has been in receivership for nearly two years after the state Attorney General's Office stepped in to investigate allegations of mismanagement. Forest Hill Military Academy closed its boarding school in December because of low enrollment.

Headmaster Jay Whitehead, who has been leader of the school over the past two years, said the academy made money during its summer "military adventure" camps, when youths between the ages of 12 and 18 visit the school to see if the military lifestyle is for them.

The camps "made a little bit of money," Whitehead said Tuesday. "But we didn't make enough money to pay off existing debt."

Whitehead said he is trying to find an investor who would be interested in buying the property at the commissioner's sale.

"I'm on the phone every day calling people and trying to get in front of them" to make a pitch, Whitehead said. "I'm trying to find some Bourbon County person, quite honestly, who has some connection to the school. We've identified a couple of people, but we haven't found that person to sign off on it."

In August, the school had hoped to raise $400,000 through a crowdfunding site called RocketHub. The money would have been used to restore buildings on the 122-year-old campus. But as of Monday, the school had only raised $170 from three donors, according to the RocketHub website.

"We had some volunteers trying to do that. It was a nice effort but nothing came of it," Whitehead said.

Founded in 1893 by Col. C.M. Best, the college-prep school educated young men for many years.

The school was in its zenith in the 1940s and 1950s, when it had an enrollment in the hundreds. The institute counted author Wendell Berry, international firearms expert Col. George M. Chinn and NBA basketball player Tom Boerwinkle among its alumni.

Schools that combine academics with military training have been a dying breed since the 1960s and 1970s, and the 2008 recession took down others. Part of the decline was due to the high cost of military boarding schools. In addition, having a sixth-grader leave home to go to school was not a popular option among many families.

Whitehead hopes to find someone who would care enough about Bourbon County history and the school's history to save it.

"I've been trying for two years to save it and I'm going to give it my best shot," Whitehead said. "This may be one last-ditch effort to try to make it happen."

The master commissioner's sale is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Oct. 1 at the Bourbon County Judicial Center on Main Street in Paris.

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