– Gov’t uses influence to freeze controversial parking system
After a jaunt by city officials to Mexico to advance a plan to implement a controversial parking meter system in Georgetown, the government has reportedly decided to flex its muscle and propose a halt to the plans. Although the Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan and other councilors had registered their objection, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green was bent on pursuing the project with a company called the “National Parking Systems” in order to raise money run the city.
Burdened with a bloated staff and mounting expenses, especially with the drive to clean up Georgetown and “green” the city, City Hall is eager to widen its revenue base. But sources say the government is not pleased with how the project was sprung upon citizens, especially with regard to lack of consultations and sketchy details.
The Mayor has the full backing of Town Clerk Royston King and Councillors Junior Garrett and Oscar Clarke, with whom she flew to Mexico with last week.
But sources say the government’s intervention means the parking meters will not be put up – at least not yet.
Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, commenting on the issue, had said he felt it was “unfair” for Councilors to endorse an arrangement they are not fully au fait with. Bulkan, who has responsibility for the nation’s local government system in the absence of a Local Government Commission, said while he endorses the traffic-management project, there is still need for greater public education, especially since Councilors still need to be fully informed on how the City will reap the benefits of the arrangement.
In May, the City Mayor had announced that a “parking contract” was given to the National Parking Systems, although the City Council had given overseas-based Guyanese Saratu Phillips an exclusive contract back in 2007.
It was subsequently revealed the Manhattan address listed by the National Parking Systems was not occupied by that company. The National Parking Systems is collaborating with another company, Smart City Solutions, on the project.
Nevertheless, Chase-Green maintained that the project was necessary to create vehicular mobility around the city, but she had failed to gain the support of many of the councilors including the Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan.
The situation quickly deteriorated when the Councilors were informed that the Mayor and team had travelled to Mexico, and that a contract has been signed, which they knew nothing of. Why, they didn’t even know of the Mexico trip!
At a recent statutory meeting, the Councillors complained bitterly, explaining that the Mayor and the Town Clerk had promised the entire Council would have gotten an opportunity to peruse the contract and provide their feedback but this was never done. The Deputy Mayor, during that meeting, said he too needed answers.
However, in a social media post, Duncan had voiced his refusal to support the parking meter system, citing a lack of verifiable information on the parking meter company.
Duncan said he was provided with little information by National Parking Systems’ (NPS) Smart City Solutions from which he can make a quality judgment.
“In my research, I have not found any company by the name ‘Smart City Solutions’ associated with parking meter systems in any of the places the company is purporting to have done business, like Panama,” he said.
Further, he said that in his independent research on Simon Moshevilli, who represents Smart City Solutions, he has found no one with said a name connected with the said company. In fact, he said, there is no evidence that such a company even exists.
“Again, the total lack of verifiable information on the company and its capacity to execute the scope of the project, and in the absence of a contract on the proposed project, I cannot offer my support (to the project), and reaffirm my grave reservation of such a venture,” he declared.
But the Town Clerk, while still in Mexico, opined that people were taking advantage of the absence of the Mayor to advance negative, divisive and completely untrue narratives. In interest of transparency, King announced that a press conference will be held.
He said everything will be made clear at the press conference, particularly the nature of the trip, which “engenders the City leadership’s duty of protecting and improving the lives and opportunities available to its constituents.”
King commended the “extensive due diligence” of the project, even as councillors spoke at the recent statutory meeting on the need for broader consultation on the matter.