February 4, 2014 Updated: February 4, 2014 at 8:31 am
MINOT, N.D. (AP) — An agreement reached nearly half a century ago is at the heart of a dispute over whether the Pioneer Village Museum belongs on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds in Minot. A judge ultimately will decide.
Attorneys for the Ward County Historical Society and the State Fair board interpret differently the intent of the April 1966 agreement that states, "the North Dakota State Fair Association will allow the Northwest North Dakota Historical Society to maintain and operate its building located on the fairgrounds."
The State Fair board, which wants the museum off the fairgrounds so the land can be used for current needs and future growth, served the historical society with an eviction notice last month. Attorney Peter Hankla said during a three-hour court hearing Monday that the board believes the "building" in the 1966 agreement refers to the museum's building that was on the grounds when the deal was drafted.
Historical society lawyer Debra Hoffarth and historical society president Bruce Brooks say they believe "building" refers to the initial building and subsequent ones moved onto the grounds as the historical society built up its museum over a period of decades with the approval of the State Fair. The museum now has more than a dozen buildings, some of which would be damaged or destroyed if officials tried to move them, Brooks said.
The dispute over the museum has been brewing for more than a year. North Central District Judge William McLees set a Feb. 21 deadline for lawyers on both sides to submit written arguments.