The parking meter debate

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By Akola Thompson

ON THE heels of public outrage surrounding their decision to relocate vendors and demolish the longstanding “dread shop”, the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown (M&CC) have again come under criticism following their decision to ignore their contract with parking meter company Astrolobe Technologies and enter discussions with the National Parking System.City Clerk Royston King had earlier stated that Astrolobe did not have the competence or experience to undertake a project of the magnitude involved, hence the National Parking Systems was chosen to replace that company. However, media reports have pointed out that the company identified appears, from all indications, to be a scam. This belief was born out of the fact that, in this technological age, very little information can be found about this company or its operations.
While a Web search alone cannot determine the absolute validity of a product or service, it is unusual that no trace could be found of a company which claims to have set up parking systems in other countries.

Then, of course, there is new information coming from Kaieteur News: that the operational address submitted by the company is false and information concerning its operations seems to be cloaked in secrecy.
With glaring questions relating to the existence of the company; the specifics of the deal, which appear to be known only by the mayor, town clerk and councillors Oscar Clarke and Junior Garrett, something seems incestuous at best.

Breaching a still valid contract in hope of giving it to someone else who has been hinted at having political connections to members on the council is not only high-handed, but is a deviation from what was promised to people regarding transparency and accountability, which have long been bones of contention among the electorate.

This action has caused many who would have voted in the Local Government Elections to wonder whether the changes seen are merely cosmetic, while the systems, principles and mindset of the previous council remain intact.

While the mayor has stated that the M&CC did not go to tender because it was spending no money, this decision has violated the need for transparency in procurement procedures — something which the coalition Government, in their time as the Opposition, had argued strongly against. With nothing having gone to tender, there is no way of knowing whether or not the public would has received the best deal.

Aside from the secret parking meter deal, however, whether or not the council has done any analysis regarding the impact these meters will have on businesses remains unknown; but from all indications, no such analysis has been carried out. These pricey systems would most likely increase the cost of doing business in the capital.

Efforts have also seemingly been made to deceive the public regarding the fees attached to the meters. While many understood the term “rotation” to mean an hour, it in fact means 15 minutes. Therefore, persons who have to use the parking meters will pay $500, instead of the $120 an hour they were initially led to believe.

The fact that specific streets have been selected for installation of the parking meters is another bone of contention, as persons who have business on those particular streets face an evident economic disadvantage against those who do not, and can seek free parking elsewhere.

In an age where many countries are seeking to move away from expensive parking systems and implement more affordable options, such as Disc parking, the council’s decision to break ground and install physical meters suggests that the matter was not well thought out on their behalf.

Many can understand the need for stricter-monitored city parking, and there will, of course, be the upside of jobs being created and long-term revenue being garnered for the city. However, this process should have been carried out more transparently, and attempts to breach a contract which is valid for 25 years should never have happened, as it threatens to upend all the promises regarding transparency and due diligence made by the current administration during its time as the opposition.