An email sent to Scott County Fiscal Court regarding the 1825 Choctaw Academy could potentially sway officials to support applying for grant money to restore the historic piece of property owned by a local ophthalmologist.
Dr. Chip Richardson, owner of Georgetown Eye Care, submitted a 1:1 grant match request in May to the fiscal court for a restoration project to preserve the Academy. Richardson explained to the court the importance of such a project, and how the Academy is an integral part of American history.
“This is a plea for the county’s help for a project that I think is of paramount importance. Everyone knows that the 1825 Choctaw Academy is obviously a structure in need. It is currently protected from rain but not protected from thunder, wildlife, and of course, these blowing storms we’ve had lately,” he said during a fiscal court meeting earlier this year.
Though it was part of meetings prior to the passing of the court’s 2022-23 budget in June, money for restoration or an application for funds related to the Academy were not part of the budget. Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington said although the fiscal court understands the importance of the Academy and its place in Scott County history, after research and legal counseling, it was decided the county should not charge forward as the applicant and fiscal agent for the proposed funding by Richardson, who owns the property that shares an easement with the Georgetown-Scott County Museum.
In a letter to Richardson, former County Attorney Rand Marshall said the fiscal court had been exploring options for preserving the 1825 Choctaw Academy.
“After a meeting with representatives of the museum board, it became clear that a partnership with them on this project would not be possible,” the June letter states. “While they are committed to historical preservation in Scott County, they do not have the staff and other resources to dedicate to the Choctaw Indian Academy.”
In his letter, the fiscal court acknowledges the Academy holds historic significance on a variety of levels, but the court would not participate financially as long as the property is in Richardson’s name or the name of any private person, Marshall said within the letter sent in June.
During a fiscal court meeting on Sept. 9, Magistrate Kelly Corman said he had received an email from Richardson regarding the Academy and what “headway” has been made in its potential restoration and grant application.
“We got information from the Blue Grass Community Foundation. Apparently, they did a legal analysis and found the easement would be fine for public benefit. He wants to know if the county is interested in matching funds of the federal grant and that those funds would be going to a 501 foundation. He’s sent a couple emails, and I know we’ve talked about it in the past, but I want to bring it back up,” Corman said.
Magistrate Chad Wallace said he also received the email, to which he asked Richardson to provide a written form of the legal analysis to the fiscal court.
“He referenced that Rand Marshall had come up with a legal opinion about this, and I’ve asked him to send it to me legally so I can pass it on to the court. I’ve not gotten anything yet,” Wallace said. “I’ve asked for that specific legal analysis on letterhead and from their attorney, but I’ve not received that and it’s been multiple weeks.”
It’s no doubt the Academy has a “unique” history, said Magistrate Rick Hostetler.
“The background on that, and I’ve seen those emails, when that structure completely falls down, that’s the end of it. The history’s gone,” said Hostetler. “Obviously, we know what went on there, there’s been quite a bit of writing about it. I think our local historian, Ms. (Ann) Bevins, has included that in at least one book that I’ve read of hers. I’d hate to lose the history because it’s unique, what went on there goes way back.”
Covington proposed that County Attorney Cameron Culbertson send an official request for the legal analysis. He added once it is received, Culbertson would report back to the court and then officials could “go from there.”