Contractor Phased Out of RREM Program to Rebuild for Sandy Victims

By Lauren Wanko

15 months after Sandy hit Tom Largey and his family are still not back in their home and still waiting for grant money to rebuild. The Sea Bright resident thinks the Federal Sandy Relief dollars are being spent in the wrong places.

“I just want it to be fair. I want everyone to come clean and say this is how we’re disbursing it,” said Largey.

That’s a question many people are asking. Largey, who’s on the wait-list for the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation grant, wonders why URS, one of the three firms initially contracted by the state to assist sandy aid applicant in the construction process, is being phased out of the RREM program.

In a letter to RREM applicants, DCA Commissioner Richard Constable writes, “You have been reassigned to a new RREM Program Manager, who will be overseeing the construction management of your property. Moving forward, CBI, will be responsible for your construction-related needs.” Constable adds the change has no impact on the applicants assigned Housing Adviser or any of the work at their Housing Recovery Center.

“This is part of a disturbing pattern where the state is wrongfully denying people aid, they are then firing or suspending or whatever they are doing with contractors and not answering questions with people as to what’s going on,” said Adam Gordon.

A source within the administration tells NJTV News that the URS transition out of the RREM Program is not performance related. There’s no longer a need for three RREM Program managers, only two. Largey says he’s fed up with the administration’s lack of transparency.

“I think Mr. Christie politicized the Sandy grant program, he used it for his own political benefits or in the worst case to the enrichment of his cronies and friends,” said Largey.

“There is just too many unexplained changes and unanswered questions about where the program is headed,” said Gordon.

Monmouth University latest poll indicates 74 percent or nearly three in four state aid applicants feel people like them have largely been forgotten in the recovery effort. Largey insists his grant applicant wasn’t processed correctly. He wonders when he’ll finally get back home. Now all that remains in this empty, gutted house is a snapshot of the family who once lived here, a family that desperately wants to return.

Largey says he’ll continue to fight for the grant money. He plans to go to Governor Christie’s Town Hall in Middletown, looking for answers.