Invasion of the Money Snatchers

The Borough of Sea Bright and T&M Associates
Refused to Tell Us How They Were Going to Spend Our Grant Funding to Elevate Our Home

Please refer to our post “Homeowner Appointed as Agent for Borough”… to understand how egregious the Borough’s behavior under T&M became towards us.

The original firm handling our project, was Tetra Tech Engineering. They were contracted by the Borough, and their expertise was required only for the application process. After the approval of the Grant application, a structural engineer and architect would be hired to prepare the necessary plans for our elevation.

In 2010, during the Grant application process and filling out the paperwork with Tetra Tech, we signed an Agreement, stating that the we (the Homeowner), would be responsible for additional costs not covered by the FEMA Grant. However, this was based on the following expectations:

  1. The assumption that this project would be handled professionally and responsibly. (Not even close – indescribable)
  2. The Agreement we signed would be honored. The Grant application we submitted and later signed, was based on estimates we obtained for all phases of the project. It was not based on some perverted front, loaded with useless administrative costs and favor payback schemes, the Borough approved without our consent. The application that was approved and the total funding granted, was based on estimated costs from a Grant application with an additional 10%, for unforeseen conditions. Numerous discussions and revisions with Tetra Tech, refined the application and assured us that we met FEMA’s requirements. We were assured that the approach we were using was proper and that any cost-savings realized, would simply never be paid by FEMA. A required tenant of this Agreement was that we (the homeowner) would contract all of the vendors following NJ’s Prevailing Wage Labor Laws — and that Borough/NJOEM, would release payment to the vendors, as each phase of the project was completed and approved.
  3. To be kept abreast of: Any new findings, all changes and to be provided with all Quarterly Reports. In the end, this was not the case. Sea Bright and T&M Associates refused to tell us how they were going to spend this Grant money! Furthermore, they did not provide us with the Quarterly Reports (some which were never filed until NJOEM requested them) without us submitting an OPRA request. However, they did make desperate and aggressive attempts towards us — to extract more money — from us. (Big Red Flag)

We were told that we would be contacted before any changes or moves were made. They claimed they would not move forward, without our knowledge or permission. Our gas meter was moved without our permission and countless other disasters. We were not informed as to when our home would actually begin the lifting process — as promised — despite numerous, unanswered phone calls to T&M Associates. This Agreement was broken early on — when we were mistreated, misguided, and shunned from any and all operations.

They Did Make Desperate and Aggressive Attempts Towards Us — to Extract More Money — from Us

We did not ask for, nor were we aware of, the over-the-top architectural plans that were drawn up for this basic house lift — including the elaborate fee of $25K (which later increased to $33K) — all to be sponged early on from our Grant.

Nor did we expect to pay for T&M’s ridiculous oversight charges. After burdening the Grant’s budget with these elevated (no pun) costs, their behavior was amazing. The Architect and Engineer denied culpability multiple times during the project. Both, stating that it was the other who was responsible for various basic management tasks and failures, during the course of the project. Can you say, unprofessional finger-pointing? However, they both had no problem charging for oversight services.

To recoup the reallocated funds, they sought to cut the monies appropriated by the Agreement for Construction. Multiple calls from T&M began… asking us how to cut costs? Unreal. We asked that the Grant be resubmitted, but they refused — stating that FEMA would deny a re-application! We were later told by FEMA, that this was simply not true.

We were then forced to cut costs from the project. We were asked what things we could do without, from an already streamlined and bare-bones project scope. We took responsibility and action by removing siding (then salvaging it, for use in the elevation); the removal of asbestos from our utility room — all of which, we paid for and its proper disposal. Our back patio pavers, blue stone walkway and front beds, were all dismantled. We stacked everything neatly on palettes and skid-wrapped them for the Builder’s convenience — again, at our cost. These materials from our patio and walkway, were to be put back by the Builder, but were later damaged them, instead. We rented the neighboring vacant lot, to provide parking for the contractors and lessen the impact on our neighbors. We settled for multiple changes to their plans, in order to reduce costs — despite the fact, that all of these items were included the original bid! The winning bidder immediately fought the plans and cried that there was not enough money.

We could have requested temporary relocation and housing costs to be included in our HMGP application, but we felt we were able to cover these expenses on our own. We knew we could handle a 4-week project window, but the 7-8 months? And then they wanted additional funds from us?


A lie cannot live.


Author: Laurie