Renegotiated parking contract is best deal for city now

-committee chairman

Councillor Akeem Peter, Chairman of the committee set up to renegotiate the contract for the Georgetown Metered Parking Project, is confident that he and his team have been able to secure the best deal that the city could manage at this time.

Ahead of the submission of the committee’s report to council tomorrow, Peter told Stabroek News that concessionaire Smart City Solutions (SCS) was very willing to accommodate requests and only had one of its own.

“They requested that we not make their documentation, including the feasibility study, public. I did not sign a non-disclosure agreement but since this was the only request of the concessionaire we agreed on principle and were able to examine the document with them,” Peter explained.

Previous assessments of the deal between the city and SCS had pointed out that it was heavily in favour of the concessionaire and the city had been advised to “re-assess the financing arrangement of the contract.” A Ministry of Finance report described the deal in some areas as exploitive and labelled the city’s outlook on aspects of the deal as “ignorant,” while a review done by the Attorney General’s Chambers had noted that it was of such “unequal bargaining strength” that it included a clause intended to scare the city council at the prospect of terminating the agreement,

Noting that he felt “fairly well” about the renegotiation committee’s report, Peter said that it will deal with recommendations for amendments to both the contract and by-laws, keeping in mind the recent High Court ruling on the latter.

In a ruling on December 15th, 2017, Justice Nareshwar Harnanan declared the decision by Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan to approve the by-laws for metered parking in the city null and void.

The decision centred on provisions in the Municipal and District Councils Act as to the procedure for public notification in the drafting of by-laws.

The Act mandates that the notice of intention to apply for approval of the by-laws be affixed to the building of City Hall. This, the court found, was not done. Justice Harnanan noted that news articles did not satisfy the requirements of the Act.

Peter explained that the committee will be resubmitting by-laws for consideration by the minister. These by-laws will reflect the newly negotiated contract.

One of the major changes, the chair noted, is that persons will no longer be charged for using particular spaces but will instead be buying time when they purchase metered parking cards. These cards will be VAT inclusive.

While the committee was not able to have the hourly rate reduced to below $100, it was able according to Peter to reach a midpoint between this requested sum and the $200 being charged at the time of the project’s suspension last year.

“It would’ve defeated the purpose of traffic control if we made the price too low. If an hour’s parking cost less than $100, we would still have congestion,” Peter said.

Through “stern” negotiations, he added, the committee was also able to see reductions in the fees attached to enforcement measures, such as booting.

Additionally, the committee is calling for council to take into consideration the condition of parking spaces and embark on rehabilitating same.

“We can’t ask persons to pay to park in substandard space; parapets that are mere mud banks,” he noted.

It is being recommended that the cost of this rehabilitation be borne by the city, according to Peter, who said that an oversight committee of councillors will also be formed to continuously monitor the project for the duration of the contract.

“This was not just a negotiation between the city and SCS but the city, citizens and SCS and I am hoping the citizens will welcome this report and its recommendations,” Peter stressed.

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