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Ramos on Sandy Cleanup: ‘Taxpayer Money Must be Spent Properly’

(TRENTON) – Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Chairman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. (D-Hudson) released the following statement Friday as the committee convened a joint hearing with the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee on Hurricane Sandy cleanup:

“I want to start by emphasizing this is a fact-finding effort.
“Taxpayers have the right to know why the state is using a firm that is charging, in some cases, nearly twice as much as other companies.
“They are entitled to know why an emergency plan was not already in place for the work AshBritt is doing.
“No one questions the need for a timely clean up, but taxpayer money must be spent properly.
“Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.
“We know former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour alertedthe administration to a debris-removal contract between Connecticut and Ashbritt.
“Barbour – whose BGR Group is Ashbritt’s primary lobbyist in Washington – recommended New Jersey piggyback it.
“New Jersey did just that, thereby retaining AshBritt without competitive bidding.
“But on November 4, for instance, Ceres Environmental Services sent a letter to Treasury arguing taxpayers were being overcharged.
“AshBritt was charging $21.25 a cubic yard, while Ceres offered $8.49.
“Forty-three towns chose to operate under AshBritt, but many towns opted to use others.
“One municipality, for example, contracted with another company at about half the AshBritt cost.
“Clearly, serious concerns have been raised about whether this money is being spent efficiently.
“These questions demand additional oversight.
“If mistakes or errors in judgment have been made, we need to know how they can be corrected.
“We are just beginning to rebuild our state, and it must be done the right way.
“So I hope this will be a coordinated and bipartisan effort to protect our taxpayers and ensure our state is rebuilt in the best way possible.”