The well-known businessman, Regiwell “Reggie” Francis is alleging that the management of Christophe Harbour owes him money for work completed at their 35-acre marina and mega yacht harbour and, instead of paying him, they brought in an overseas contractor to complete the project he started.
Francis, owner of St. Kitts Marine Works (SKMW), also claims that the General Manager of Christophe Harbour Development Company Ltd., Bill Lee, has not been truthful when he told the media that he (Francis) has an open contract with the top development company in St. Kitts.
Francis said that he has since filed a civil action in the High Court of St. Kitts and Nevis for work on
the dock done by his company and he is currently seeking arbitration into the monies owed to him for the partial dredging of the marina.
“We have been working for Christophe Harbour for about two years, and since in January we have had a situation where the area we have been dredging has been filling back in. We identified this problem to Christophe Harbour and we say that there is need for a restriction, a breakwater, to stop the material from filling back in; because as you dredge out it fills back in, then I don’t get paid,” said Francis.
“When that happens, I am shown to be behind schedule and I am also not making money. I told them that this could not continue. We stopped in January, where we moved 18,000-plus cubic yards and when they did the measurements we only got paid for a little over 2,000 cubic yards. We showed that this is a problem,” Francis continued.
The SKMW’s boss claimed that while he was negotiating with management in early January 2012, Christophe Harbour, during that said period, “Had their issue in the US with a lawsuit, so they didn’t want it to look bad with me pulling up my equipment. So I worked along with them, stayed quiet, left my equipment there so that when the sales people came, they would have seen it”.
Francis noted that negotiations continued up to about a month ago, but he observed that the development company had brought in a foreign contractor to do the work for which he was contracted.
“Further research shows that they are offering the guy almost twice as much money to work. His dredge can’t do the job because the stones in the area are too big…they cannot even pass through the pipe. They have been there for a few weeks and it seems as if they haven’t started any work as yet,” explained Francis.
“I believe that this whole thing is a show. I put up a sign saying that locals have an 18-inch dredge and the foreign contractor has an eight-inch dredge…pay your local contractor. Let us get back to work…get this job done. We all love St. Kitts. We don’t mind Christophe Harbour being here, but I don’t think it is fair for them to try and take advantage of the locals,” continued the businessman.
“We did the dock and I had to take legal action against them to get paid for work I have completed. Half way through the construction they said to stop and I felt that they ran out of money. During construction and real estate we have the up and down times, especially with the economy right now. I understand the situation, and I told them if they do not have the money to pay me, at least make an arrangement acknowledging that they owe me and we can arrange a payment plan. But even that has not worked out. To me, they are just adding insult to injury by bringing in another person with an inferior dredge, who has actually come to me and asked me to assist in doing the same work from which they took me off.”
In an interview with WINN FM’s Clive Bacchus, General Manager, Bill Lee refuted Francis’ allegations and stated that the local contractor has an open contract with Christophe Harbour.
“I should say that just out of propriety for me to comment wholly on Reggie Francis’ open contract doesn’t make me so comfortable. He does have an open agreement…it is still open. The work is not complete and then my understanding now is that Reggie is wanting payment but the agreement is really is to pay for work that is completed, so there is no way in doing business like that.
When asked about Francis’ allegations of hiring a foreign contractor with inferior equipment to replace him, rather than what is due to him financially, Lee said, “I don’t know about that. We are in the business of creating a beautiful place for people to enjoy. In fact it’s a long process. In fact, today (Nov. 9), we are doing a groundbreaking ceremony for the new hotel. So, none of us here at Christopher Harbour get into agreements with the idea that will end incompletely without the work being done…it’s just not part of the plan.
“Into the notion that we have to…that had delays and lost time and then go through the whole process of bringing somebody in and then explaining to stakeholders why there is a “Into the notion that we have to…that had delay, it’s a lot of extra effort that we really did not want to get into when we started the agreement…”
Francis, on the other hand, categorically stated that Lee is trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes by saying on WINN FM that SKMW and Christophe Harbour have an open contract.
The local contractor produced a document he received from Christophe Harbour, dated 27th August 2012 and signed by the company’s Director, Townsend P. Clarkson, showing termination of contract, which was headed “Re: Notice of Termination of Agreement/Christophe Harbour Earthworks”.
Francis reiterated that negotiations with Christophe Harbour were had as recent as late October 2012 and that General Manager Lee appears to be “a stranger to the truth”.
Francis is calling for an independent local arbitration.
“All St. Kitts Marine Works wants to close this matter is for an independent (local) arbitrator to sit between the two companies and decide on a fair settlement. Additionally, I am willing to stand 100 percent behind the decision handed down after all information has been reviewed.”