-“I have nothing and no one to fear”
Following the announcement that the controversial city parking meter contract would be reviewed by the government, Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase-Green, is defiant. Moreover, she is throwing down the gauntlet to her critics.
In a recent statement to the media, the Mayor made it clear that if anyone had information about any ‘underhand dealings’ in which she might be involved, then they ought to go to the police. She said that she has nothing and no one to fear.
“Anyone who has information that they think is any way untoward or underhand movement with regards to this contract is free to go to the police with it,” the Mayor stressed. “If you have any evidence of anything… I am the Mayor and I have to take the responsibility of anything of this council.”
She also denied reports of the existence of the ‘Fantastic Four’; that is a group of councillors who have been making decisions and taking action independent of the council.
Recently the Mayor, Town Clerk Royston King, Chairman of the Finance Committee Oscar Clarke and councillor Junior Garrett, embarked on trips to Mexico and Panama.
The council and Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan had reportedly not sanctioned the trips. The Deputy Mayor has been insistent that a full council must discuss the deal, which was, however, signed even before the trip to inspect the meters.
“I don’t know of any group of four persons. I know we are councilors and I am the chairperson for this council,” Chase-Green said. “The contract is at the town clerk’s office. Anyone is free to request to look at it, nobody came forward to look at it, but you’re reading all sorts of things in the press.”
During a post cabinet press briefing on Wednesday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, stated that the whole saga had been a subject of cabinet’s meeting and a decision had been reached for the Attorney General’s chambers to review the contract for any illegalities.
Detailing the city’s position on this development, the Mayor made it clear that the review of the contract by the government was welcome. She reiterated that there was nothing to hide and at the end of the day the review will bring closure.
“Because all that has been happening is speculation,” she said. “So Government has it, it’s going to go to the Ministry of Legal Affairs for a review and to the Ministry of Finance. And I’m happy about that.”
Asked whether the project would be on hold until the review is completed, the Mayor stated that that was not the case to the best of her knowledge. They would move ahead with their September implementation date while the review was ongoing.
“We still have to focus on what we are proposing to do with the parking meters while they review the contract.”
The contract was signed last November under the last council, by the Town Clerk, Royston King, for a consortium, National Parking Systems/Smart City Solutions, to spend US$10M to install solar-powered parking meters around the city.
However, several of the new councillors, including Duncan, have been complaining bitterly of the limited information they have been given. They complained to Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, who expressed concerns last week.
On Monday, during a press conference at City Hall to defend the contract, Chase-Green announced that it is expected the first phase of the project will be rolled out by September 1. Some 1,500 parking spaces will be erected between Stabroek, South Road, Camp Street and Church Street.
The pilot project will include the busy Regent and Robb Streets. She also said that talks will be held with banks and other city commercial businesses on how parking will be handled. The Mayor disclosed that the fees, which were touted at $500 per hour, was still being negotiated with the consortium and is expected to be way less.
During a recent press conference, Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo had described the entire situation as “nonsense”; lambasting the fact that while the investor will collect the hog of revenues from the meters, the city is set to collect only 20 percent of what is earned.
“I don’t know what the city council is intent on doing. First it was the vendors, now its bringing hardships to people to park. So you now have to park your car by Pradoville Two (where Jagdeo lives) and walk to the city.”
Jagdeo called for the project to be scrapped. He noted that if an employee earning $60,000 had to pay $500 per hour for parking, it would outstrip their earnings. Acknowledging that there were talks of a reduction, he noted that even if it was reduced by half the cost it would be too much.
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