A Department of Public Welfare call center that seemed on track to bring 300 jobs to Lancaster County beginning in October is on hold.

The eight bidders on the state’s call for proposals seeking 32,900 square feet of office space for the center were informed this week that the state had withdrawn it.

Related story: Columbia developer proposes $7M facility to land 300-job state call center

That led Monroe County-based Falling Creek Investments to terminate its deal with the county to purchase 2270 Erin Court for $2.895 million.

The deal had been contingent on a lease with the state.

The county was able to keep the building — part of a three-building complex in East Hempfield Township that the county purchased in 2011 — on the market until a lease was signed.

Bill Roberts of IBS Development, who proposed spending more than $7 million to expand and renovate a Columbia firestation for the call center, said he was disappointed but remains open to trying again.

And he might get that chance, according to DPW spokeswoman Kait Gillis.

“We are putting the bid out in Lancaster,” she said.

Gillis said she wasn’t sure of the timing or whether the region covered in the original solicitation — a horizontal swath of Lancaster County from Columbia through nearly all of East Lampeter Township — will be the same next time.

The department pulled the original solicitation, she said, out of concern for being sure the state will spend taxpayers’ money wisely by getting only the amount of office space it needs.

The state Department of General Services, which handles solicitations for state agencies, was ready to begin making site visits and negotiating lease terms, spokesman Troy Thompson said.

Thompson referred questions as to the reason for the withdrawal to DPW.

But Thompson acknowledged that the three-week window for contractors to submit proposals for the call center was shorter than usual.

The state issued its solicitation for proposals March 14 and set an April 7 deadline.

Typically, the state allows six to eight weeks between the time it asks for proposals and the deadline for submissions, he said.

The call center would support Gov. Tom Corbett’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” proposed alternative to President Barack Obama’s expansion of Medicaid.

Like the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Corbett says his plan will make health coverage available to an additional 500,000 state residents.

In action during their April 23 meeting, county commissioners approved the hiring of Claudia Shank as the county’s new assistant county solicitor. Shank is a 2005 Penn Manor High School graduate who earned her law degree at Drexel University School of Law in May 2012. Currently a law clerk for Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Wright, Shank will start Monday at a starting annual salary of $49,335. Shank, 27, lives in Conestoga Township. She replaces Anjanette Warren, who was hired as assistant county solicitor last month but resigned because of family obligations that kept her from working full-time, county solicitor Crystal Clark told the commissioners.



Joe Hainthaler is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer who covers county government and addresses community problems in the Lancaster Watchdog column in the Sunday News. He can be reached at jhainthaler@lnpnews.com or (717) 481-6132. You can also follow@JoeHainthalerLC on Twitter.