The city of Georgetown will have a functioning parking meter system as of September 1, 2016. This is according to Mayor Patricia Chase-Green who at a press conference yesterday told reporters that the council, under her direction, took a deliberate decision not to share the contract between the city and National Parking Systems/Smart City Solutions (NPS/SCS) as it is a “private document of the administration”.
According to a statement read by Chase-Green, the previous council, in November 2015, entered into an agreement with (NPS/SCS) to provide a parking platform which will “improve mobility, increase parking space availability and turnover, reduce traffic congestion in Georgetown and pay a share of its revenue to our city.”
When questioned she stated that present administration inclusive of herself and the town clerk made a decision not to share the contract out of fear that the opportunity for this foreign direct investment would be stolen from the city.
“We took a deliberate decision not to share the contract because we wanted to secure the investment. We have had bad experiences with sharing contracts, proposals and initiatives only to have them subtly taken away from the council,” Chase-Green said, adding that the contract which was signed by Town Clerk Royston King is a “private document of the administration.”
Asked why the council did not in recent time advertise for suppliers of a parking system taking into account that NPS first approached the council in 1996, King said the council “couldn’t see [itself] being offered a better deal.”
“This won’t cost the city a cent,” he repeatedly stressed noting that the contractor will also employ over 100 staff and provide 20% of its gross earnings to the council. This sum is considered fair given the fact that NPS/CSC is doing all of the initial investment to the tune of US$10 million, creating employment, boosting investor confidence as well as providing other myriad benefits social and environmental benefits.
“They have to pay us before they deal with their expenses and we can monitor their earnings in real time. No other company offered this type of arrangement,” King excitedly stressed.
Since the announcement of the city’s intention to proceed with this project there have been concerns raised by both members of the public and several members of the council including Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan.
Duncan had publicly stated that “…all the processes leading to and emanating from this contentious contract have been weighed and found wanting.”
The series of concerns raised about the parking meters deal include that there should have been a competitive process, that no information can be found about the bona fides of NPS/SCS and the secrecy surrounding the deal and the visit to Mexico, which also included councillors Oscar Clarke and Junior Garrett.
Yesterday, Chase-Green provided a copy of the minutes of the council’s May 23 statutory meeting which stated that on May 9 the mayor announced: “The Smart City Solution Inc is proceeding with the work. In addition, the Mayor and representatives of the Mayor and City Council have been invited to observe the methods used by the agency in this area of its operation overseas. The invitation was accepted by the Mayor.”
The minutes did not state exactly where and on which date this visit would have been undertaken. It also did not state who would represent the M&CC, when these representative would be selected, or what criteria would be used to select them.
Yesterday, the Mayor declared that she selected the members of her team based on the “nature and scope of the visit, knowledge of the issues involved, manifest understanding of the various processes concerned, relevant competencies and aptitude and official or statutory portfolios.
“I have a right to pick the most professional team that I think I should walk with. I chose Oscar Clarke chairman of the Finance Committee, the Town Clerk who is responsible for all administrative work of the council and a fellow senior councillor Junior Garrett, a member of the finance committee who was dealing with the arrangements prior to this new council.”
The Mayor and Chair of the Finance Committee both stressed that the trip provided the council the opportunity to do “due diligence” on the company. According to the seasoned public officials, “it would’ve been unethical” for the city to accept the trip before having signed the contract.
“They said sign off, come and see this thing and if you not in agreement you can contest the contract,” Clarke said, explaining that the city’s signature was an expression to NPS/SCS of its seriousness.
Clarke declared that he had “No apologies to make to anyone” for the way in which the project was conducted.
“We did our due diligence,” he said, explaining that the contract signed included a clause stating that if after due diligence the city was not satisfied then the contract could be renegotiated.
Chase-Green said the council representatives were totally satisfied with the bona fides of SCS.
“We have verified the consortium’s five years of experience in Mexico City… where it operates and maintains approximately 20,000 parking spaces; the consortium’s recent achievement of being first to install parking meters in Lima, Peru; the consortium’s installations of parking meters in the Republic of Panama and the consortium’s position as a distributor of parking meter equipment from Parkeon the largest parking meter manufacturer in the world,” Chase-Green said.
When asked about the Manhattan address provided by NPS which has since proven not to be authentic, Chase-Green said it was “unfortunate that the basis of the public’s due diligence is Google and Wikipedia. But I have sat with this company in Mexico City and in Panama. I have seen their work. NPS is now a part of Smart City Solutions which is based in Mexico City, I know nothing of a Manhattan address.”
The address referenced is one provided on the NPS website which was last updated in 2016.
Asked why the present councillors were not aware of the contents of the contract, the Mayor maintained that “any member of the council actively involved in work of council and reading their minutes they would’ve known about the project” even as she stressed that it would’ve been unsafe to give a copy to each councillor as “you don’t know where they will take it.”
“By law they can see the contract. Any councillor can, by law, request to see any document relating to the council,” the Mayor said.
King added that the new council had been educated about this and other projects being undertaken by the council at an orientation conference.
Asked to respond to reports that Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan who has oversight of Local Government Authorities had indicated that Central Government might halt the parking meter project until such time as the controversies surrounding it are cleared, Clarke said council representatives had met the minister who “appreciates that the law gives the council the authority to proceed on this matter. We don’t have to ask anybody. But out of courtesy, we think we ought to speak to the minister so that he will recognise that we are moving in a direction which is completely new; strange to everyone including us but we are sure that what we are doing is in the interest of the people of Georgetown… The minster doesn’t make decisions for the government, the Cabinet does and he noted that based on the information we provided he is now able to deliver to Cabinet a different impression than the one shared in the media.”
The team which met the minister presented him with a copy of the contract and the minutes of May 23, 2016, where, according to the mayor, there was consensus by the council on the Mexico and Panama trips.
The mayor maintains that this deal was entered into under Sections 274 – 276 of the Municipal and District Councils Act Chapter 28:01
“We are working within the framework of 28:01 which gives the council authority,” she said.
Section 276 (1) and (2) grant the council the right to establish, maintain and control car parks as well as erect and maintain parking meters
Chase-Green made sure to clarify that the team did not travel to Mexico City to purchase parking meters.
“I am not the procurement office of this council. Procurement falls under the responsibility of the treasurer. I travelled to ensure that the company had the capacity and competence to deliver what they promised,” she said.
Green also noted that the council is still in discussions with the company as to the proposed cost to citizens but assured that the cost once agreed will be less than the $125 per 15-minute cycle or $500 per hour which was previously publicized.