Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

BAKER CITY — Richard and Kathleen Chaves are optimistic they’ll be able to rehire most, and perhaps all, of the 54 employees they had to lay off Jan. 31 at a Baker City call center when the couple’s contract with a state agency ended.

The Chaveses said it’s even conceivable that they will win new contracts with the state that could allow them to expand their workforce beyond 54 employees.

Their optimism arose from a 30-minute phone discussion they had Monday with Lynne Saxton, director of the Oregon Health Authority.

“It was the most positive conversation we’ve had,” Richard Chaves said Tuesday afternoon.

OHA will not renew the previous contract, which had been in effect for one year.

But the Chaveses said Saxton told them they could be eligible to bid for both short-term and long-term contracts with the state for other programs that also need call center services.

“We have hope that this is going to come out better than before,” Kathleen Chaves said.

Saxton didn’t offer the couple any specifics, in terms of contract terms or job numbers.

But Richard Chaves said he’s confident the state will solicit bids soon for call center contracts.

“That’s all we’ve ever asked for, is the opportunity to compete,” he said.

Saxton could not be reached for comment.

The Chaveses believe that given the chance to bid, their performance record during the past year — something they said Saxton acknowledged during their phone call — will stand out.

“We have a proven success model, which should provide some advantage for us,” Richard Chaves said.

The Chaveses said they’re gratified by the help they’ve received from Baker County’s representatives in the Oregon Legislature — Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, and Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario — and from U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Kathleen Chaves said that in the past week or so the couple have talked twice with Saxton and once with Gov. Kate Brown.

Chaves said she is also heartened by their former call center workers, who have created a Facebook group to keep in touch with each other.

She credits the employees’ efforts with putting the company in a position to seek new contracts.

“Because of the work they’ve done over the past year, the excellence they’ve accomplished, we’re being made aware of things we could qualify for,” Chaves said.