By Ramona Luthi
Almost one year after the original Parking Meter Project was harshly rejected in Georgetown, the Town Clerk, Royston King on Thursday asserted that the re-negotiated paid parking system’s contract has been signed and the new By-laws –which are still in the drafting process-, are expected to be laid before the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) in approximately two weeks.
“We’ve signed off on the parking meter contract and we are now in the process of re-drafting the By-Laws. I hope to present the By-laws to the Council within another week or two and once that is approved by Council, we will then go forward with the process as set out in the Municipal and District Council’s Act,” he said during an interview with INews.
In May 2016, the M&CC had entered into an contract with a foreign investor, Smart City Solutions Incorporated (SCSI) for parking meters to be implemented in the city.
The project was officially rolled out in 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 it’s fees were considered too burdensome and the contract itself, which was not tendered and shrouded in secrecy was deemed corrupt.
However, the Mayor and City Council as well as the parking meter contractors, Smart City Solutions continued with the project, and clamped the vehicles of those who sought to park without paying in the streets of Georgetown.
A High Court challenge to the legality of the city’s metered parking by-laws, which was signed by Communities Minister, Ronald Bulkan on January 23, 2017, was then advanced by the New Building Society Limited (NBS).
In March of the same year, after widespread protest by a movement (MAPM) that was formed against the clandestine project, Bulkan suggested to the Mayor and City Council that they suspend the paid parking project for three months, commencing March 17, 2017, pending a review.
Even though many significant bodies within the private and public sector were calling for the entire initiative to be scrapped, a re-negotiation Committee was established at City Hall to have the contract re-drafted.
During the latter part of December, NBS was deemed successful in its bid to have the by-laws governing the controversial parking meter project quashed in the High Court.
Justice Naresh Harnanan ruled that the procedure used to bring into effect the by-laws was breached, resulting in them being invalid.
As such, following the completion of consultations and re-negotiations of the Parking Meter Contract with SCSI, in January 2018, the new contract was approved at the level of the M&CC.
The re-structured rates will now see persons paying $150 per hour and $800 for eight hours of parking in the city.
The MAPM has since announced however, that is will resume protests if paid parking is resumed under the concessionaire SCSI.
According to the MAPM it “will not compromise on its position that the contract between the City Council and SCS suffers from a number of procedural and other deficiencies and may be deemed illegal due to breaches of various laws.”
One such law according to MAPM is outlined in “section 229 of the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chap. 28:01 which provides that notice must be given and invitation sought from the general public bids by way of sealed tenders bidding for execution thereof of contracts exceeding $250,000, and to select from among those bids using a fair and transparent process and abiding by fixed and pre-informed guidelines of eligibility by bidders.”
The MAPM said that while it is not against a structured system for traffic regulation within the central areas of the city and the need for the M&CC to increase their revenue base, it will not support the successful renegotiation of “this corrupt contract.”