A Cumberland County government plan to help revitalize Bridgeton’s downtown business district will undergo some changes.
The change is required because the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced Tuesday that the county’s social services offices will not move from Vineland to a new office building in Bridgeton.
That building was planned as a $14 million, three-story structure on Laurel Street. County officials said the move would bring about 200 social services employees and thousands of social services clients to Bridgeton’s downtown each week. That move could help foster economic development there in the county seat, they said.
Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joseph Derella said plans for construction of a county facility in downtown Bridgeton are still “very much alive.” Details regarding the new plan will be made public next week, he said.
Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly could not be reached for comment.
The Bridgeton office building was part of a three-pronged economic development plan by the county. The other parts of the plan involved an estimated $45 million full-time technical high school and an estimated $6 million county Workforce Investment Board building on the Cumberland County College campus in Millville and Vineland.
Derella said the county also plans to make an announcement next week about the construction of the high school and Workforce Investment Board facilities.
During Tuesday’s freeholder meeting, Derella announced a tentative agreement to buy the building that currently houses the social services offices. The county currently rents the building on Delsea Drive in Vineland from the Vineland Construction Co. for more than $1 million annually.
Vineland officials and business organizations have opposed moving the social services operation from their city to Bridgeton. They say Vineland merchants could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in business by the move.
Vineland’s elected officials — who opposed the move — were happy with the county’s decision.
“We believe it is the right decision for the clients who utilize the facility, the employees who work there, and the Vineland business community,” Mayor Ruben Bermudez.
Bermudez said special thanks go to the Greater Vineland Chamber of Commerce for lobbying against the move, and people who, in just two weeks, gathered more than 12,000 signatures toward a nonbinding referendum in opposition to the plan.
Derella made mention of the opposition.
“Our goal from the beginning was to get the best results for the people of Cumberland County,” he said. “We were able to stay focused in the midst of distractions ... and we reached an amicable agreement between all parties.”
As for next week’s planned announcements about the three economic development projects, Derella said, “I hope everyone can be patient for a week when we can discuss all the details.”
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