By Rick Sobey

MediaNews

PEPPERELL -- Who said that nobody is hiring? The town of Pepperell is now seeking applicants for a $70,000 per year position.

With Town Treasurer-Collector Michael Hartnett resigning to take the same job in Groton, the Pepperell Board of Selectmen is looking to appoint a temporary treasurer until the annual Town Election in 2014. Job candidates must be registered to vote in town.

"We already have a couple qualified candidates, and I think we'll have more qualified people interested in the position," said Town Administrator John Moak. "We're starting the process right away to make sure the selectmen can make a selection before Michael leaves. We want him to transition the new treasurer."

May 12 is Hartnett's final day in Pepperell. He has been the elected treasurer for 13 years but is leaving the position midterm, deciding to take the same job in Groton.

Hartnett did not seek out the Groton position, he said. He had "every intention of serving out the rest of the term."

"They had an opening over there and contacted me directly," Hartnett said. "It really came down to the opportunity for a new challenge in an adjacent town that is very strong financially.

"By going to Groton, I will be able to focus more of my time and energy on treasury functions in addition to tax collection functions," he added. "I've been very, very dedicated to Pepperell and will always feel very close to Pepperell."

Former Groton Treasurer/Tax Collector Victoria Smith abruptly resigned in January, according to interim treasurer Joan Tallent. She had "no idea" why Smith resigned. Smith held the position for close to two years.

"We're excited for him (Michael) to join," Tallent said. "I've worked with him in the past, and his experience ties directly to the job."

Hartnett was appointed by Groton Town Manager Mark Haddad and the Board of Selectmen after being chosen from a field of 16 applicants. Hartnett emphasized that Groton is in a much stronger state financially, withstanding budget cuts much better than Pepperell, he said.

The town has a higher tax levy that allows them to support more staff and additional departments, according to Hartnett.

"I do remain resolute that staffing levels are not sufficient in the Pepperell Treasurer-Collector office and other departments as well; a fact which was substantiated by confirming that Groton's Treasurer-Collector office has almost 50 percent more staffing in place," according to Hartnett's resignation letter to Moak.

Hartnett wanted to have more people assisting him, according to Moak. Four years ago, Pepperell cut Hartnett's staff from 80 hours to 50 hours per week, and he "just found it difficult to get everything done," Moak said.

"We're going to miss Michael," he said. "He was a very bright, qualified treasurer, but his reasoning just stems from the cuts before I got here."

Hartnett was earning $77,000 per year in Pepperell, according to Moak. In fiscal year 2013, which goes until June 30, the Groton treasurer salary is $74,701, according to Suzanne Loverin, director of human resources. In fiscal year 2014, the Groton treasurer salary will go up to $76,195.

The Pepperell temporary treasurer would make around $70,000 depending on qualifications, Moak said.

The temporary candidates will need to have experience reconciling bank accounts, collecting tax bills and working the day-to-day operation of a financial institution.

"There's a good amount of financial responsibility with this job," Moak said. "It's a $22 million cash operation. It can't just be someone who worked in a store."

Treasurer candidates need to submit a cover letter and resume to the Board of Selectmen's office no later than 12 p.m. on April 12. Applications and additional information are available through the selectmen's office at Town Hall, One Main St.