Pioneer Village dispute appears headed for court

A dispute over the Pioneer Village at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds looks like it is headed for court.

Talks broke down Tuesday morning between the North Dakota State Fair Board, which wants the Pioneer Village moved off the fairgrounds, and the Ward County Historical Society, which wants to leave the museum where it’s at.

“We have no plans to put forth to move because it is simply impossible both logistically and financially to do so,” Glynn Breuer, president of the Ward County Historical Society, told the Fair Board.

Herbert Meschke, the historical society’s lawyer, said he has advised his clients that they are under no obligation to move under the terms of a 1966 contract which states that “the North Dakota State Fair Association will allow the Northwest North Dakota Historical Society to maintain and operate its building located on the fair grounds.”

State Fair Board member Neil Fleming said there seemed no reason for further discussion “if their bottom line position is ‘we’re not moving’ and ours is ‘we want them out.’

The State Fair Board’s master plan includes a plan to eventually build a large convention center on the fairgrounds in the location where the exposition and dairy barns, Jaycees Building and 4H Building are currently situated. The fair board also wants to relocate the road that currently runs by the Pioneer Village Museum on the fairgrounds, which would require moving the museum off the fairgrounds,

Meschke, a retired state supreme court justice, told the State Fair Board that there is some ambiguity in whether the word “building” refers to one or several buildings. However, he said case law generally favors the precedent that has been set up until the time of any disagreement over a contract and the historical society has operated its historical buildings on the fairgrounds for 47 years.

Fleming and other fair board members dispute that interpretation of the contract.

At past meetings, the fair board had set a September deadline for the historical society to come up with a relocation plan. Now that the historical society has said it’s not moving, it looks like the case could go to court instead.