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March 6, 2013

Pulse of the County Blog: Call center stalemate

It hasn't been smooth sailing for the Obamacare call center that was awarded to Contra Costa County, after Stanislaus County's bid for the center and 200 to 300 jobs came in second in January.

Last week, stalled talks with unions prompted Contra Costa supervisors to table a decision on putting the center either in Concord or Richmond. County officials said demands from unions would cause that county to lose money on operating center, one of three in the state that would help the uninsured obtain coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

Conceivably, Stanislaus could renew its bid for the center if things were to fall apart in the Bay Area county. Kathy Harwell, Community Services Agency director for Stanislaus, said she placed a call after seeing a report last week that Contra Costa had abandoned plans for the center. Harwell said she was told by a Contra Costa department head that the county plans to move forward, despite the news report.

“At this point, we haven’t been approached by (the California Health Benefit Exchange) because Contra Costa County is still actively moving forward,” Harwell said today.

Concord and Richmond are not sitting idle in case Contra Costa does give up. The respecitive City Councils for the two cities talked Tuesday night about initiating direct talks with the state to put the center in their city. Under that scenario, it wouldn't be a county-run center, but a state-run center in either Richmond or Concord.

Stanislaus County board chairman Vito Chiesa said our county is still interested in running the call center if Contra Costa bows out. "Absolutely, we would be interested. You never close the door to jobs," Chiesa said.

I'm hearing that union leaders in Contra Costa are willing to keep negotiating. They don't want to be seen as kissing off jobs.

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