The return of the controversial Parking Meter project was on Wednesday confirmed following an extra-ordinary meeting among the Mayor and City Councillors which resulted in the contract’s amended by-laws being adopted.
“The Councillors, who have voted in favour of are 13. Councillors who have voted against are 2 and 2 Councillors are in abstention,” Deputy Town Clerk, Sherry Jerrick announced before the Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green declared the by-laws “approved.”
The project was initially rolled out in late January 2017. However, citizens rejected the paid parking system and staged numerous protests in front of City Hall calling for the initiative to be revoked, since its fees were considered too burdensome.
Moreover, the clandestine and unilateral way in which the contract was awarded to the contractor (Smart City Solutions Inc.) only fueled its rejection more.
The project was then suspended by Central Government shortly after for the contract and its by-laws to be revised.
Following re-negotiation, SCS and the M&CC reached a new agreement that will now see persons paying $150 per hour and $800 for eight hours of parking in the city.
During the meeting today, while Councillors were granted the opportunity to debate the proposed amendments to the by-laws, Mayor Chase-Greene restricted them from discussing the contract and concessionaire, among other related aspects.
This saw an instant rebuttal by People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Councillor, Bishram Kuppen who sought to point out that the by-laws are interconnected with the contract between the city and Smart City Solutions.
He also asserted that Council is attempting to move forward with a contract whose legality is still being questioned and as such, advised that it not be proceeded with.
“This contract is for forty years. A contract that did not come about in the approved manner. There were no public consultations; they were doing that after the fact. It was not publicly tendered as required by law. The Procurement law says that it has to be tendered and that was not done and they’re going about in many different ways to validate this contract which in my mind is illegal and should not be allowed to go on.
“This contract, even though they amended, they’re saying 20 years, it is really for forty years because the contractor has a right of renewal for an additional 20 so each one of you will be on record as [forcing] this on the necks of the people of Georgetown for forty years. This contract is not a fair contract,” he argued.
In addition, the other PPP Councillor, Khame Sharma while applauding the reduction of the parking meter fee to $150 an hour and $800 for eight hours of parking, noted that he could not support the project as there were too many questions left unanswered.
Furthermore, Councillor Malcom Ferreira- while being one of the Councillors who voted in favour of metered parking- called for the decision to be placed on hold, until all court issues regarding the controversial parking meter project have been addressed.
“If we truly care about the city and the citizens, we should not rush into rubber stamping the new by-laws without giving thought to all possible outcomes. Some may say that it’s a foregone conclusion that some people will oppose this whole metered parking regardless and that may be true. However, as elected Councillors we must not forego our responsibilities and duties in haste to arrive at a conclusion,” he explained.
However, Councillor Heston Bostwick, as he expressed his unwavering support of the paid parking system, called for its speedy implementation.
Meanwhile, with the amended by-laws now being approved, the Administration is mandated to have them on display in public spaces for a minimum of 14 days.
This will allow persons viewing to write to City Hall and express their concerns.
Further, after that 14 days the adopted by-laws is expected to be forwarded to the Communities Minister, Ronald Bulkan for his perusal and approval. If granted, it will then be gazetted.
Among other conditions, the new by-laws provide for residents of the city to be issued with a restricted residential pass for free parking from 17:00-19:00hrs Monday to Friday while parking will be free on Saturdays.
Under the modified contract, both parties have agreed to have an oversight committee set up to monitor, review, and manage the operation of the project. The committee is expected to have three representatives from City Hall, 3 from SCS, and one third party with the terms of reference for the committee expected to be agreed upon at a later date.
The Committee’s report noted that during the renegotiations, the subject of share profit and contractual obligations were discussed and it was agreed to have it remain the same being the 20/80 M&CC-SCS for a period of 20 years. It was also disclosed that in the event of arbitration, the proceedings would be held in Miami, despite the jurisdiction being Guyana.