VINELAND - Opponents and proponents of the proposed closing of the Vineland Developmental Center will get two chances next week to speak for and against the action.
The state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizen Committee and the Assembly Human Services Committee will hold a joint hearing on the proposal 1 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall at 6th and Wood streets.
Committee officials said the panel will hear first from invited speakers, including those representing the developmentally disabled and center employees. Others who want to address the committee can fill out a form that will be available before the proceedings begin. Committee officials ask that speakers be as brief as possible.
The committee will also accept written testimony. Committee staff asks that persons who choose that option provide 30 copies of their testimony.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, is organizing a rally to be held at the developmental center at 4 p.m. on Friday. The rally will be held on Spring Road.
A Van Drew spokesman said the speakers list is still being developed. The list is expected to include business leaders and "people affected by the potential closure," the spokesman said.
This will be the third rally at the developmental center. The first was held April 7, attracting about 250 people. The second was held April 26, attracting national labor leaders and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Gov. Chris Christie wants to shutter the developmental center by June 2013 as part of his current budget proposal.
Officials with the state Department of Human Services said the number of persons living in New Jersey's developmental center is declining as family members are opting for other community-based residences. They also say closing the developmental center will save the state millions of dollars.
More than 300 developmentally-challenged women of all ages live in the center. Another 1,400 people work at the facility. City, Cumberland County and some state legislators contend the loss of those jobs would further devastate the county's poor economy.
On Tuesday, City Council became the latest legislative body to formally oppose the closing.
In a resolution passed by a 5-0 vote, City Council states that, should the developmental center close, "the ripple effect on the local economy would be crippling, an effect in which this community would not likely soon recover."
Should the developmental center close, City Council said in the resolution that the state should "locate any and all group homes in Cumberland County, thus saving as many jobs as possible targeted to be eliminated."
Meanwhile, a bill floating through the Legislature would, if eventually approved, allow the Legislature to review and potentially block the closure of any state psychiatric hospital or developmental center.
The bill would require the state human services commission to explain to legislators why a facility with more than 100 full-time jobs should close. The proposed bill reads that the intent of the measure involves "asserting the interest and authority of the Legislature in protecting the rights of this population to receive such care."
Contact Thomas Barlas: