Christie Should Come Clean About RREM Snafus At Town Hall Meeting
The Christie Administration has terminated a contract with a second company it hired to assist survivors of Superstorm Sandy rebuild their homes, according to a report on WNYC.
URS, a global San Francisco based engineering and construction management firm had a $20 million contract to supervise the rebuilding of New Jersey homes under the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program. The contract has been terminated. Homeowners are being informed by state officials that one of two remaining contractors will now supervise the rebuilding of their homes.
RREM provides $150,000 Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to New Jersey residents as “last resort” rebuilding assistance. The federal money is supposed to assist residents who have insufficient funds after insurance, other government assistance and private monies are exhausted. URS was one of three companies hired to supervise home rebuilding, according to the WNYC report. Residents who were working with URS have been assigned to one of the two other contractors. The amount of fees committed to the remaining two contractors has not been reported.
While the Christie Administration has received high marks for its administration of assistance to municipal governments and businesses impacted by Sandy, there is growing criticism and frustration over the repeated delays in getting assistance to homeowners.
In December, the Department of Community affairs terminated the $68 million contract of Hammerman and Gainer (HGI), with no explaination, giving the company a $10.5 million settlement fee. If URS received a monetary settlement upon the termination of its contract, neither the settlement nor the amount, if any, has yet to be reported.
Christie has a Town Hall Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 18th at the VFW in Port Monmouth to be followed by a mobile cabinet meeting to deal with Sandy relief issues. I hope the governor comes clean on why RREM has been so problem plagued, why so much money is being spent or committed on the administration of the program ($128 million of $780 million awarded by HUD so far; $68 to HGI prior to that contract being terminated, and $20 million to each construction supervisor, assuming the two remaining contractors are being compensated at the same level that was committed to URS) and what will be different going forward.
The Department of Community Affairs has been less than forthcoming and far from transparent regarding its progress, or lack thereof, in assisting New Jersey residents whose homes were destroyed 15 months ago. Commissioner Richard Constable omitted the fact that HGI had been terminated during his testimony before legislative committee in January. The governor’s office routinely refers questions from the press regarding the RREM program to DCA and DCA refuses to answer.
Hopefully the stonewalling will end with Governor Christie telling the truth in Port Monmouth next week. New Jersey residents have come to respect, in many cases love, Christie for his candor when taking on his critics and touting his agenda. If he can display the same candor in acknowledging screw ups in his administration, he will prove himself to be the rarest of political leaders. If not, the RREM screw ups will be no different than the healthcare.gov disaster and Christie will be no better than President Obama in his excuse making.