The Great Northern Fair Board voted Tuesday to decline a $50-a-month offer from the county museum board for storage at the fairgrounds, and to again extend a $200-a-month offer.
Fairgrounds manager Tim Solomon said during the meeting that when he was showing the space to H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum Board members they made an offer of $50 a month, down from $200 a month he said museum board members had suggested in previous meetings.
“I told them I would bring it to the board, but, personally, my gut feeling is, it isn't worth, for six hundred dollars a year, for us to move stuff and put it in somewhere else … for what we have stored in there right now. ”
At its last two meetings, the museum board has discussed finding new storage space for items not displayed in the museum, including using space in the building on the fairgrounds that housed the museum before it moved downtown and then to the Holiday Village Mall.
The museum board and staff members are moving the museum to a new location in the mall.
In the museum board meeting last week, board member Gary Wilson said that during a tour of the site on the fairgrounds he told Solomon that the museum funding foundation has put a large amount of money into the museum and the Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump, administered by the board along with the museum, and the board probably could not afford more than $50 a month.
Museum and foundation board members also said during that meeting that they believed the fair board should not charge another county entity to use space it is not using itself.
At the fair board meeting, after board member Missy Boucher asked if the museum uses the Faber School House on the fairgrounds for storage, Solomon said the school, which operated in the Bear Paw Mountains in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was set up with a schoolroom display.
“So it’s got desks and all that sitting out, ” he said, adding that he has been asking the museum board to open that building and an old homestead on the fairgrounds since he took over as fair manager 10 years ago, but the buildings generally are not used.
Board member Lynn Dolphay suggested that the buildings could be opened with the displays roped off, so visitors would not be able to touch them.
Board member Alma Seidel added that having the buildings open would be a benefit for the people using the campgrounds at the fair, giving them something to do.
Solomon said there are other museum items at the fairgrounds, in addition to the items now in storage in the previous museum building and the school and homestead building.
“It's all museum, but we’re still storing and managing and moving wagons around that are theirs … for nothing already, ” he said. “That's a little of my concern. When they have two empty buildings there that they're not using for anything else, if they're that short of storage, maybe they ought to turn that into (storage) because they’re obviously not showing them. ”
Fair board Chair Bert Corcoran said similar storage space would cost $200 a month on the private market, with some at the meeting saying it actually would cost more.
But the museum is not a private entity, Solomon said.
“That’s the only reason we’re considering it is that they're another county entity, ” he said.
Solomon asked if the board would like to make a counter-offer, such as $100 or $150 a month.
Boucher instead motioned, and the board passed, to keep the offer at $200.
“I think the two hundred, ” Boucher said. “If they have rooms that haven't, that they're not opening, aren't being used, they could store that stuff in those facilities until they can once again decide to open them up and use them. ”