DeJongh to intervene in GERS, WICO contract dispute


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ST. THOMAS - Gov. John deJongh Jr. is intervening in the dispute between the Government Employees' Retirement System and the West Indian Co. about the contract to manage Havensight Mall.

At a GERS board meeting last week, a letter from WICO chairman and V.I. Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty was read into the record. According to Government House, the letter shocked the GERS board, which thought a management contract was ready to be executed. In her letter, Nicholson-Doty said there are items the WICO board is willing to compromise on, but other items remain sticking points. She said if the matter cannot be resolved by the end of May, WICO will forfeit its management role, which it has had since 1993.

In a news release issued Tuesday, GERS board chairman Vincent Liger said he was surprised by the letter from the WICO board.

In March, WICO President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boschulte indicated the two parties had reached an agreement on the new management contract for Havensight Mall; now the board is saying it wants to renegotiate certain items.

"Frankly, we thought we had an agreement," Liger said in a written statement. "I am hopeful that with the governor's assistance and intervention, the parties will be able to resolve their differences, hammer out an agreement that is fair to both parties and move on to fulfill their respective missions."

The date for the meeting with the governor has not yet been finalized.

WICO owned Havensight Mall until 1993, when it was sold to GERS. WICO has managed the property since the sale under a management contract that typically is renewed every five years.

In 2009, GERS put the management contract out to bid, causing strife between the two agencies.

Since then, no long-term deal has been reached, and WICO has continued to manage the property on a month-to-month contract.

"Over the last three or four years, we have come to this point before. We have a contingency plan," GERS Administrator Austin Nibbs told The Daily News last week.

If WICO chooses to halt negotiations for a new management contract, Nibbs said that GERS has a 30-day transition period before it will need to find new management.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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