Morritt’s, Lloyds in arbitration

Morritt’s Tortuga Club is in arbitration with Lloyds of London in an attempt to finally settle the resort’s Hurricane Ivan insurance claim.

It’s a last-ditch attempt to collect money its management says is owed so that rebuilding can be completed.

The resort suffered $20 million in damages in the 2004 storm. Insurer Lloyd’s has already paid out about $3 million, but Morritt’s wants the remainder of the settlement, which will amount to less than the full $20 million.

‘We’re trying to firm up and assess the full extent of the damage,’ said Steve Minotakis, chairman of the board of Morritt’s Tortuga Club and the resort.

The club’s website gives timeshare owners an update of the arbitration process.

At issue is ‘our estimates versus the insurance company’s on the extent of damage and what cost was assigned in arriving at the figures of our claim. As we have previously stated, we are confident we have done a diligent task of documenting the damage and are moving along with the process of arbitration and look to do so timely,’ the website states.

In the meantime, timeshare owners at Morritt’s can be assured that the property is insured and will continue to be insured, Mr. Minotakis said.

‘There is continued coverage and there will be renewed coverage in the future. We’re looking to resolve this settlement in a timely manner.

‘Our goal is to get the people back down here and enjoy their piece of paradise.’

There are 10,000 people with 99-year leases at Morritt’s. Additional units being built on site mean that more timeshares will be available for sale.

The absence of an insurance settlement hasn’t stopped redevelopment at the East End resort.

The Grand and Tortuga Club units opened in September and the Oceanfront Wood Building (4002) will be ready for bookings by mid-April.

The foundation of the 4001 building, which is the smaller seaside building, is in process, footings have been placed and concrete is being poured. It is slated to be completed in early 2007.

The tennis court, located by the shopping centre, is unavailable at this time, as it is being used as an interim staging area for the dock construction that is expected to be completed by early summer. Architectural drawings and permit approvals are in process for the restaurant and the 2000-block building, which is the larger seaside building. Completion of the restaurant is expected by fall and the 1000 and 2000 buildings should be ready by mid-2007.

Royal Construction owner Howard Finlason is overseeing the resort’s rebuilding.

‘All of the renovations are now finished on the existing structures,’ Mr. Finlason said.

His crews have finished building the shopping centre, which is slated to open in April or May across Queen’s Highway from Morritt’s, and are concentrating on the 4001 building and a new dock.

Red Sail Sports will have a dive shop at the end of the pier and the new dock will sport a tiki bar.

‘We’ve already started pouring the beams,’ Mr. Finlason said. ‘That’s going to be a really nice addition to Morritt’s.’

Mr. Minotakis said the resort is working around turtle season while building the dock.

‘We’re working with the Department of Environment to ensure we have the right amount of protection for the turtles,’ he said.

While guests are waiting for the restaurant and bar to be rebuilt and opened, they can dine at Ivan’s.

‘Once the restaurant opens we’ll turn Ivan’s into something else like a disco, lounge or club,’ Mr. Minotakis said. It was resort owner David Morritt’s idea to name the room Ivan’s.

Occupancy at the resort is running at about 95 per cent, which is close to the occupancy rates before Hurricane Ivan. There are 137 units available. Some owners lost their units in the storm and are being assigned to other, similar units.

Most of the timeshare owners appear happy with the rebuilding, Mr. Minotakis said.

Only two have hired lawyers to request certain information from the resort.

They are asking for financial statements, an opportunity to inspect books, a copy of management services agreements, a copy of the insurance policy at the time of Ivan and details of construction plans.

While he can’t comment on possible pending litigation, Mr. Minotakis said the resort is making an effort to answer all questions.

Many owners have questioned why unspent maintenance fees from the prior years of 2005 and 2004, when the resort was partially closed, were not used to offset any maintenance fee increases estimated for the 2006 operating year.

Mr. Minotakis explained that although prior year maintenance fees were not fully expended and the by-laws call for application of any remaining funds to the subsequent year budget, the 2006 budgets were prepared as if no excess funds were available for application to be conservative pending the settlement of the insurance claim and resolution of some related items (i.e. expected reimbursement).

The excess funds from the prior years are being held in operating, reserve and special assessment accounts. It is most likely that the preparation of the 2007 budget, which will be concluded in mid to late September of this year, will also be prepared similarly, not assuming any excess funds from prior years until the insurance claim is resolved.

Mr. Minotakis said the resort owners are trying to keep timeshare owners apprised of what’s going on with the insurance settlement, to explain maintenance fees and to offer updates on construction via their website, www.morritt.com where management updates are posted.

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