“I wasn’t what you’d call a big government type. RREM is changing my mind on that.” Glen Purdom on the RREM Program
Glen Purdom is a DIY kind of guy.
A refrigeration-cooling contractor by trade, the Atlantic City resident has restored three Harley-Davidson motorcycles as a hobby for relaxation. “I can fix anything,” he admits.
The ability served him well. Add to his list of do-it-yourself repair jobs his Stewart Avenue home of 25 years, which he not only repaired but also elevated 14 feet after Superstorm Sandy floodwaters rushed in.
Located one block from the Inter-Coastal Waterway and one block from the city’s marshlands on the low-lying Chelsea Heights barrier island, Purdom loaded up his most valuable and essential items into his recreational vehicle and drove inland as Sandy approached in October 2012.
As soon as Governor Chris Christie lifted the State of Emergency evacuation order, Purdom was back home to survey the damage. He found four feet of floodwaters. Although driven from his home by the worst natural disaster in state history, Purdom’s reaction was not to walk away from his home and his community. “I moved around too much as a kid,” he said. “I’m staying.”
He was one of the first homeowners to apply for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. “I’m a kind of guy who takes charge of my life,” Purdom said.
Purdom is the perfect example of the value of the RREM Program empowering those with the know-how to take control of the disaster instead of letting the disaster control them. “I didn’t want to wait,” he said of his take-charge approach to recovery. He selected the RREM Program’s Pathway B option to serve as his own general contractor.
Working with licensed design professionals, Purdom obtained the approved plans for rehabilitating his two-story house. Having professional experience as a contractor, he was familiar with working with sub-contractors, the state and the local permitting process necessary in the construction industry.
The approved plans called for demolishing the damaged front and back of his home. Retaining local workers, Purdom performed the demolition and then replaced those sections of his house. Inside, he did the time-consuming repair work needed to recover from the ravages of the saltwater that filled his home.
Purdom was able to salvage the wooden stairs to his second floor. The restored stairs aren’t just a striking aesthetic detail added to his living room. “It saved me a lot of money,”
Purdom notes. His master bathroom is restored with a repurposed dresser that he topped with copper and plumbed with a vessel sink as well as a whirlpool tub he purchased online all for less than $200.00
The ongoing theme of Purdom’s repairs was that he stretched his RREM grant to ensure money was not wasted. “My grant was well spent,” he acknowledged.
The major challenge of the RREM effort was when he drove out to St. Louis, Missouri, during winter’s polar vortex, and took a one-day certification class in using a Helical pile driving drill.
Back in New Jersey, he purchased one of the machines and about $40,000 worth of the round Helicals. Then he watched YouTube videos “about 100 times” to learn how to elevate his house. He drilled the Helicals 30 feet deep into the soft ground every seven feet to lift his house 14 feet into the air. He constructed the foundation and set his house down.
This past May, he received his Certificate of Occupancy and moved back into his home two years after he began working, proud that he had rebuilt his house himself.
His expertise and DIY attitude extended to others in his pleasant residential community visible from Atlantic City casino-hotel towers. Purdom, with his crew, helped homeowners across the street get back into their homes after Sandy, cleaning out the debris, flood cutting moldy drywall and assisting in obtaining the needed permits.
“That somebody stepped up and did this program, I feel like a lucky man. It brings tears to a guy’s eyes,“ he said of the RREM Program. “There was no way I could have afforded this myself. I wasn’t what you’d call a big government type. RREM is changing my mind on that.”
David Reiner, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, and Sam Viavattine, DCA’s Sandy Recovery Division Director, visited Purdom, who wanted to personally say thank you to those responsible for the RREM Program.
“This was the chance of a lifetime,” Purdom said. Now, he said, “It’s time to get back to my career.” Studying his beautifully repaired home now 14 feet in the air, he mused, “this was my career for two years.”
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