Hurricane Sandy approached the U.S. Photo courtesy of NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab via Wikipedia.

The New Jersey Treasury Department adopted Connecticut’s disaster cleanup contract in the days following landfall of Hurricane Sandy, avoiding the standard competitive bidding process.

The use of another state’s contract, sometimes called cooperative purchasing or piggybacking, allowed New Jersey to lock in a price schedule on Oct. 31, just days after the storm struck.

New Jersey entered into the six-month contract with AshBritt, a Florida-based company, under the public exigency provision allowing for emergency purchases, according to Bill Quinn, spokesman for the New Jersey Treasury Department.

Quinn said the contract is for the benefit of local governments responsible for cleaning up debris in their communities.

“It’s really an option for the towns,” Quinn said. “It’s not mandatory.”

An investigation by Raising Hale revealed that Connecticut cities and towns using the AshBritt contract paid more than twice the market rate for some cleanup services, wasting at least $20 million.

“If they get a better price on their local contract, they can use that,” Quinn said.

The state has also issued a request for information, Quinn said, the initial step toward a competitively-bid contract for use when the short-term contract with AshBritt expires.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburses 75 percent of most debris removal costs.

Quinn said state officials saw Hurricane Sandy approaching and wanted to guarantee “additional capacity for debris removal.”

Quinn said the Connecticut contract was “structured to comply with FEMA regulations” and offered a wide range of services. He said state officials liked the reporting requirements and pricing in the Connecticut contract.

“I don’t really have an answer for why there wasn’t one in place” before Sandy, Quinn said.

Dennis Schain, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said New Jersey used DEEP’s contract with AshBritt “as a model” and the separate agreement won’t have any impact on Connecticut.

“And we have every reassurance and commitment from AshBritt that if we need additional resources here, then they will be provided, regardless of status of work with New Jersey,” Schain said.