Groups debate Kemper’s fate

Friday, September 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:29 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A group dedicated to Kemper Military School in Boonville has begun discussions that could lead to the school’s reopening.

In a closed session Thursday night, the Friends of Kemper Foundation met with Boonville’s Industrial Development Authority to discuss the future of the school, which was founded in 1844.

Steve Read, chairman of the foundation, said he could not divulge what options were discussed. Thursday’s session did not address the possibility of the group buying the property, he said.

Sarah Gallagher, director of economic development for Boonville, said the session left her feeling positive. She’ll have a better sense of whether the school will reopen by the end of this weekend, she said.

The city council has charged the Industrial Development Authority with the responsibility of looking at various proposals and reporting back.

Dave Nicholas, president of the authority, said the group exists to assist the city. At a public meeting held before the closed session, Nicholas said it has been more than two months since the city bought the property, and the town has yet to receive a solid proposal.

The Kemper School filed for bankruptcy in 2000. The property was sold at auction in April by Citizens Bank and Trust. The city offered the winning bid of $480,000 to acquire the school’s 49.5 acres.

Gallagher said the city bought the property because it was a good buy. She said the city wanted to use the additional land for parks and retain control over Kemper’s future.

If discussions with the Friends of Kemper Foundation do not progress, Gallagher said the city had no concrete alternatives. She said many other options exist, but nothing specific has been decided.

Other options include using the school buildings for meeting rooms or a museum. The Industrial Development Authority has been approached by several educational institutions in Missouri.

State Fair Community College approached Boonville, and Gallagher said there is still a potential for a deal to be worked out with the college.

This weekend is Kemper’s annual Alumni Association weekend. Jim Herring, president of the association, said he wants to see the school reopen as a military school. He said the alumni association believes the Friends of Kemper Foundation is best positioned to make that happen.

“They’re the ones we’re counting on to help,” he said. “The Friends of Kemper have the big money.”

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