Contra Costa County's fractious vote to put a new state health insurance call center and its 204 jobs in Concord still has a $1 million cubicle question: New or old?
The state will by Tuesday ask the county in writing for clarification about whether existing furniture in the building proposed for the Concord call center meets minimum state standards for patient privacy, lighting and access for disabled workers.
"We're not anticipating any problems (with the existing cubicles), but we want to make sure," state agency spokesman Dana Howard said.
New furniture would cost $1 million and the county has said it won't put any general purpose funds into the call center, one of three planned statewide as part of the federal Affordable Health Care Act.
Use of existing cubicles helped the Concord landowner bring down costs in the fierce call center competition with Richmond that ended late Friday in the board of supervisors' 3-2 vote.
The successful majority said centrally located Concord is accessible to more unemployed county residents than Richmond on the county's western edge.
But despite the supervisors' vote, it is unclear whether the state will go along with the Concord site, a former Comcast call center at 2500 Bates Ave. in an industrial park north of Highway 4 off Port Chicago Highway.
The California Health Benefit Exchange Board which will implement Covered California, must also vote on the contract. State staff had
The uncertainty fueled hope among Richmond leaders on Monday.
"I don't know that this is over," Richmond Councilman Jael Myrick said. "The state has some discretion, some wiggle room. The ball is in the state's court now, but on Tuesday (the council) will talk about what options we may have going forward."
Kathleen Sullivan, a Richmond resident and member of Black Women Organized for Political Action, called the supervisors' vote "criminal."
"Richmond had all the stats, the clearly superior bid, but the board had its mind made up and they weren't willing to listen to reason or community input," Sullivan said. "They stole our jobs."
The three-year price tag for rent and utilities in Richmond was $1.6 million, according to county staff reports. A representative of Richmond's landowner, Richard Poe, lowered the cost by roughly $500,000 on Friday and he had lined up a $1 million loan from the city.
"(Concord) had a private company bidding and, on the other hand, you had a private company with lots of subsidies from the city," said Concord Councilman Edi Birsan said. "That to me, from an economic point of view, made the bid from our side far more rational and far more reasonable."
The Concord lease will cost $991,568 over three years, which includes rent, some tenant improvements and utilities, per the bid from landowner Joe Garaventa.
The bid assumes the county will use the existing two-occupant desks, spaced to accommodate a single worker rather than buy $1 million worth of new cubicles.
Covered California was requiring a specific single occupant cubicle design: Each desk is 50 inches tall and has three solid walls to provide maximum visual and audio privacy while service center workers discuss clients' personal information.
"Open double occupancy cubes do not provide the level of privacy that Covered California wants to achieve," the state informed the county earlier in March.