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Fair Share Housing Director: Bill for Sandy Cleanup Puzzling

2-27-14

As one of the contractors hired by the state following Hurricane Sandy was phased out, the bill for New Jersey ended up being higher than expected. Fair Share Housing Center Associate Director Kevin Walsh told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that it’s surprising to find out that the bill with HGI climbed so high.

“The three-year bill was supposed to be $68 million, so we’re a little bit puzzled about how the bill climbed so high,” said Walsh. “It seems that there’s some form of litigation going on between the state and HGI at this point to sort that out. What’s even more troubling to us is that the state has paid $30 million to HGI without requiring HGI to produce any reports, when its contract required weekly and monthly reports. We’re not sure just how bad of a job HGI did yet. We had some indications it was pretty bad but we don’t know yet know why the state thinks that HGI has breached its contract. We’re trying to get tot he bottom of that.”

Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable told the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee that the company had been let go for performance issues. Gov. Chris Christie on his radio show mentioned that the company was not doing the job the state had wanted done. Walsh said that it seems to have been a failure of the state and HGI to work well together.

According to Walsh, there was an indication that HGI had done a bad job in other disasters around the country and that it was also a problem with the state not requesting reports.

As for HGI’s job in New Jersey, Walsh said that the company was supposed to handle the recovery effort for homeowners and approve applications for RREM.

Walsh said that HGI has a troubled reputation and that DCA made the decision to hire the company despite its record.

Whether HGI or DCA can get some of the blame taken off, Walsh said that it is not possible considering how long it has been since the storm.

“I don’t think HGI can get cut slack here and I don’t think DCA can get cut slack when 16 months after the disaster there’s basic questions about confidence and transparency,” said Walsh. “Maybe the first few months when they’re getting up and running, they get some slack cut to them, but not now and not when they should have known for so long what was happening.”