-Discussion differed until next Friday
By Ramona Luthi
The Mayor and majority of the city Councillors on Thursday afternoon agreed to have the parking meter discussions differed until August 25, 2017.
According to the Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green, this will allow members of the public to become acquainted with the report of recommendations compiled by the Parking Meter Negotiation Committee, headed by Councillor Malcolm Ferreira.
This final report, she posited, will be placed in the public domain, including the National Library and City Hall, for persons to peruse.
Chase-Green further noted that on August 25, stakeholders and other members of the public are welcome to submit their suggestions and opinions of the report to the Mayor and City Council for a thorough discussion. Further discussions on the topic will continue during a Statutory Meeting on August 28 where a vote is expected to be taken.
Nevertheless, Ferriera, this afternoon engaged the Council, the media and some members of the public in his verbal presentation of the anticipated parking meter report.
It was revealed that numerous concerns were raised by members of the public regarding the Parking Meter contract between the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) and contractor, Smart City Solutions Inc. (SCSI).
This included the legality of the contract as many persons, during the consultation period, made mention of their belief that the contract is illegal and contravenes various sections of the law.
“It was the candid view of some stakeholders that the council did not operate within the confines of the law,” the report said.
Other concerns included the transparency of the process, whether due diligence was observed –especially since the Legal Advisor of the council indicated that he was not a part of the initial process of the formation of the contract-, the termination clause and one sided accountability, the dispute resolution/jurisdiction since the contract in its present state calls for arbitration to be conducted in a foreign court, the seize and sell clause, harsh penalties and booting, rates for residential parking, rates for commercial parking, group rates for taxis and minibuses, the revenue split of 80%-20% – with SCSI holding majority-, duration of the contract, tax concessions, monopoly on parking, location of meters, cost for parking, lack of consultations, transfer of time on cards, impact on income, parking spaces for parking not in good conditions, size of parking space, wages, exemptions, traffic congestion in city, car park issues, attitudes of SCSI’s staff, economic report, designated areas for schools/differently abled, distance of parking meters from spaces, placement of meters, and the fact that the main partner was a foreign company.
After months of reviews and discussions, the Parking Meter Negotiation Committee has recommended several solutions.
According to the report, the Council can choose to continue the Metered Parking System with Smart City Solutions.
However, to move forward under this option, the Committee must be mandated to renegotiate on Council’s behalf so as to “address and resolve ALL of the points/findings listed in this report [concerns], host public meetings to apprise all stakeholders of the findings of the Committee and to articulate and further discuss the areas that should be included in the new contract, be provided with any and all documents by SCSI within reasonable time when requested, including those of a financial nature,
“be provided with all relevant documents (feasibility study, business plan, environmental impact assessment, etc) that normally accompany such a contract, and that are required under the updated financial laws of Guyana, ensure that due diligence is observed as it relates to any new agreement or amendment to any existing agreement, have a legal review of the current parking meter by-laws with a view for amendments, and have an independent ‘project analysis’ done to offer proper guidance.”
Other options provided by the recommendations suggests that the Council discontinue the metered parking system with SCSI, continue the metered parking system in accordance with the law and in accordance with the legal and transparent process as outlined in Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01, continue the metered parking system independently OR await the outcome of pending court proceedings on the subject matter.
The controversial parking meter project was introduced to Guyanese in May of 2016. However, it was officially rolled out in the latter part of January 2017, much to the dismay of many citizens.
Large protests, of hundreds of persons from various sectors, were staged in front of City Hall for several weeks calling for the controversial contract to be scrapped.
This resulted in the Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan who initially passed the by-laws bringing parking meters into effect, ordering that the paid parking initiative be suspended and a Committee be formed to have the contract revised.
However, many have since maintained that the contract does not need to be revised but actually be revoked since it is considered illegal.
The original Parking Meter contract, which has to date not been publicly released, has a duration of 20 years, upon which the Council has the option to renew.