Even as the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) moves to implement paid parking in the city, a pilot project on East Street has been deemed unsuccessful with some of the blame being laid on City Hall.
The project was undertaken by Astrolobe Technologies, a firm which had claimed that it had inked a deal with the previous council but was left out under the controversial new arrangement to install parking meters in the city. In nixing the firm from that project earlier this month, City Hall had said that the company “lacks both the human and technological competencies to install and manage parking meters in the city of Georgetown.”
It was not previously known that Astrolobe Technologies was operating the East Street parking lot, which is close to the Georgetown Public Hospital. That parking lot had come on stream in January but drivers have not been too keen on utilising it. During a visit yesterday, many vehicles were seen parked on the parapets around the hospital despite being in close proximity to the parking lot.
Currently, the cost for parking in the lot is $360 for the first hour and $180 for subsequent hours. During the visit, Stabroek News observed approximately five vehicles in the lot during the lunch hour.
Saratu Phillips, the Chief Executive Officer of Astrolobe Technologies told Stabroek News that his company and the M&CC had a deal in which he would be responsible for setting up the operations while the council would create parking policies to ensure that the pilot project was a success. He emphasised that the policies are needed to ensure that persons use the parking lot rather than the parapets.
However, Phillips said, the policies were never created resulting in the project being an unsuccessful venture. He asserted that once the policies are created and implemented, he would be able to turn around the project. He added that he is willing to go ahead with the plans for the parking lot as he had proposed.
Phillips explained that the East Street parking lot is currently in its first phase and once the project is fully on stream, there would be investment in technological infrastructure inclusive of a phone payment system, surveillance cameras and automated computer systems.
He said to date, over $3 million has been spent on the infrastructure and employment costs. Currently, one person is employed at the site. Phillips said that his initial rates were $120 per hour but following negotiations between Astrolobe and City Hall, it was increased to $360 per hour.
Additionally, he said, in his deal he had proposed a 20% payment to the council. According to Phillips, during the 10 months of negotiations between his company and the city council, he had proposed 20% of proceeds as payment to city council, vendors and subcontractors, 15% for salaries, 50% for infrastructure and 15% for himself.
Attempts to contact Town Clerk Royston King for comment on the matter yesterday proved futile. King has been pushing for a controversial parking meters deal between City Hall and National Parking Systems/Smart City Solutions (NPS/SCS). Amid a raging row over the shadowy deal for the US$10 million parking meters project, Minister of Com-munities Ronald Bulkan has been asked by government to examine the contract.
Meantime, in relation to the East Street parking lot, one driver told Stabroek News that he finds parking there a hassle as it is not convenient to easily enter and exit. Others said that they choose not to use the service as the parking fees are too high.
In January, residents of East Street had called on President David Granger to end the paid parking lot arrangement. However, then Mayor Hamilton Green said it would remain.