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Jamestown's Frontier Village could move to Minnesota

The land lease between the city of Jamestown and the Frontier Village Association expires at the end of the year. The city is seeking requests for proposals for the operation of the tourist site in the future. John M. Steiner / The Sun

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — The Frontier Village Association has issued an ultimatum to the city of Jamestown: either renew the lease for the tourist attraction or it will move to Minnesota.

"To be blunt," said Matt Sorensen, attorney for Vogel Law Firm representing the Frontier Village Association. ". . . what I would recommend to the board is we are done negotiating with the city. We've negotiated with the city for the past six months to no avail."

The Frontier Village Association leases the land of the tourist site from the city of Jamestown. That lease expires at the end of the year.

The Frontier Village authorized Sorensen to send a letter to the Jamestown city attorney requesting prompt renewal of the lease at its Nov. 4 City Council meeting.

During a special meeting Thursday, Oct. 25, the Frontier Village board changed its bylaws to authorize Executive Director Nicole Mosolf, to sell or transfer any of its property and assets.

Information provided by Sorensen by email indicates arrangements have been made with the Perham Pioneer Village in Perham, Minn. The Perham Pioneer Village is a non-profit operated by the East Otter Tail County Historical Society.

"I did find a facility that is willing to take the entire collection," Mosolf said. "Whatever, we would like them to have, that could be everything including buildings, if we can get them moved so manpower may be necessary."

Mosolf said she had begun contacting people that had loaned or donated items to the Frontier Village regarding possible return of the items.

The topic of renewing the lease was first brought before the Jamestown City Council in July. At a Tuesday, Oct. 22, meeting of the Jamestown Civic Center and Promotion Committee, city staff was asked to prepare a request for proposal allowing any group or organization, including the current Frontier Village Association, to offer a plan for leasing and operating the Frontier Village space.

Sorenson called preparing a proposal to continue to operate the Frontier Village an "exercise in futility."

"They clearly have their minds made up," he said. "They will be giving the lease to the National Buffalo Museum. I think it is time for an ultimatum, they either grant you guys a lease or it is time for the Frontier Village collection to move to a new home."

The National Buffalo Museum is near Frontier Village and Jamestown's iconic World's Largest Buffalo Monument.

Pam Phillips, chairwoman of the Jamestown Civic Center and Promotion Committee, said the problems had arisen out of a long history of a lack of cooperation and communication between the Frontier Village Association and Jamestown Tourism and the city of Jamestown.

Frontier Village receives funding from Jamestown Tourism. Disputes have arisen between the organizations regarding the FVA's lack of vision to grow the visitor experience, according to Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism.

"At the end of the day, I want people to know the Frontier Village will exist," Swedlund said. "What will emerge is a rich visitor experience that will be immersed in Jamestown's identity as the Buffalo City."

Phillips said the Frontier Village, which does not charge admission, has become dilapidated and no longer promotes Jamestown in a good light.

"What I want it to represent for the city of Jamestown is to be the showplace it should be," she said. "The current board can not accomplish that."