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  CCTimes - Richmond Calls Special Meeting in Late Effort to Secure Call Center
March 11, 2013

Richmond calls special meeting in late effort to secure call center
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted:   03/11/2013 12:25:38 PM PDT
Updated:   03/11/2013 12:36:48 PM PDT

RICHMOND -- The City Council will hold a special meeting tonight aimed at giving it a last-minute edge in the competition with Concord over which city becomes the site of a new Affordable Care Act call center and more than 200 jobs.
Monday's meeting is expected to direct city staff to enter an agreement with local property owner Richard Poe to reduce his bid by an additional $600,000, a move that follows a unanimous vote March 5 to loan Poe $1 million to help beat the Concord bid. Contra Costa County supervisors are expected to take up the matter at their Tuesday meeting.
"Richmond is in distinct danger of losing the call center, and its 220 good-paying jobs open to those with a high school degree, to a competing bid from Concord," Councilman Jim Rogers wrote in an email to his council colleagues Friday. "It is extremely likely that a majority of the supervisors will pick the Concord site, which is more centrally located, and closer to their districts, unless the Richmond bid is substantially cheaper."
Supervisor John Gioia, who represents West County and Richmond, has said the Richmond site is better-suited to the criteria established by the state, but the other four members have remained noncommittal or shown preference to Concord, which they say is more centrally located and offers easier access to workers from East County.
In January, the state selected Contra Costa County as a site for one of three call centers aimed at supporting eligibility and enrollment efforts of state-level Affordable Care Act programs. Richmond was the early favorite for the site, and county supervisors voted unanimously to search for a site in San Pablo, Pittsburg or Richmond -- which have the highest unemployment rates in the county -- as part of their effort to land the call center.
But several supervisors soon favored Concord, where another site exists. Both property owners, Poe in Richmond and the Garaventa family in Concord, are major political donors.
On March 5, Richmond's council voted unanimously to help Poe cut his bid by $1,012,545 by giving him a 25-year loan of Richmond public funds. The money would be used to erect 200 cubicles in the building, eliminating the need for state funds to finance the construction.
Now, the new plan is to help cut Poe's bid by another $600,000, which Rogers says can be done by guaranteeing $1 million in loans and Poe taking on a greater portion of the cost to upgrade cubicles in his building to meet county standards.
Rogers said the city has to have a much lower bid to get the site.
"Two bids in the same ballpark is a losing game for us.," Rogers said.
If passed, the new agreement could get the Richmond bid down to about $1.8 million over three years, more than $2.4 million less than the initial bid from the Concord site. The owner of the Concord site, Garaventa Enterprises, is expected to submit another reduced bid before Tuesday's vote.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com and follow Twitter.com/roberthrogers

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