By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
AshBritt President Randy Perkins put a human face on the Florida-based debris removal firm today, saying “We’re the very best in the business in the U.S. at what we do.”
At issue is whether the Christie administration got a good deal when it piggy-backed on Connecticut’s contract with AshBritt two days after Hurricane Sandy or, as some Democrats charge, it was a politically wired and overly costly deal.
“Every single penny should go to the victims and our only concern is that your exorbitant commissions are coming at the expense of storm victims, so that’s why we’re here,” said Sen. Barbara Buono, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
Sen. Buono said FEMA rules discourage what New Jersey did in relation to Connecticut’s contract, and that could cost us. “It was a piggy-back off another state and it was not bid in New Jersey,” she said. ” This then triggered an increased level of scrutiny, which could jeopardize full reimbursement of New Jersey.”
“The federal government, FEMA, the checkbook who we’re talking about, was sitting at the table when they blessed and agreed that the decision the administration was taking was the right path for the circumstances that were being dealt with on the day that they were signing the contract,” according to Perkins.
AshBritt charged $21.25 cents per cubic yard to remove debris. Other firms would have done it for less. But some of them, Perkins said, have been sued for poor performance, and New Jersey subcontractors expect a good price in this high-cost state.
Republicans called today’s hearing a political farce.
Said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-21), “In all the major catastrophes — Katrina, Tuscaloosa, Joplin — not one went out for competitive bidding, because that.s not how you respond to a storm. You respond to this type of crisis with decisive leadership, which the governor did.”
“Getting arguably the best in the business who can efficiently respond to these endeavors actually increases the likelihood of FEMA reimbursement,” said Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21).
The hearing went long into the afternoon and was contentious.