Staff Writer

PEPPERELL — The Board of Health has taken one of two steps toward solving its personnel crisis but a long-term fix is still up in the air.

The board hired Sandra Grogan of Townsend as a part-time, 30 hour per week secretary to replace former full-time secretary Lisa Herget, who accepted a job as the assistant town treasurer.

Throughout September, Herget stayed on as the part-time BOH secretary, early mornings and late afternoons, following the departure of health agent Edward Wirtanen. He, too, had extended his date of departure on a part-time basis through the end of August, in order to help out.

Grogan, a widowed mother of two sons, worked four years with the Townsend accountant’s office and nine years as administrative assistant to the Townsend Fire Department.

She said she applied for the part-time Pepperell position when Townsend’s Proposition two-and-a-half budget override was under discussion.

“I was told if it didn’t pass, I wouldn’t have a job,” Grogan said. “This is better for me financially and I appreciate Pepperell’s hiring me. I’m very willing to learn the ins and outs.”

Grogan also applied for the part-time Pepperell position while keeping her second job in Townsend.

Beyond Grogan’s learning curve on health duties lies a deeper issue. Even if she becomes expert, the job remains secretarial and not as a needed administrative assistant. Although frequently mentioned during Herget’s employment, no move has been made to change the health secretary’s job description, even though an administrative assistant would offer deeper service to the volunteer health board.

Still more important is filling Wirtanen’s position.

The board has interviewed, but not hired, at least four candidates for a full-time health agent. Advertised job requirements include certification in soil evaluation and as a health officer, a minimum of three years as a food supervisor/inspector, knowledge of Title V requirements, and possession of at least a Class D driver’s license.

DPW director and town engineer Robert E. Lee has been performing Title V site inspections, paid from town money since Title V inspection fees become part of the town budget.

At its last meeting, the BOH voted to advertise for a part-time Title V engineer with negotiable pay and hours.

In the meantime, confusion is the status of the day for some residents.

For example, one resident approached town administrator Robert Hanson this week, 30 days into the allowed 45-day time frame for approval of a septic rebuild. The work had been inspected, thus Lee’s task was complete. But Grogan’s 30 hours were up and the health office was locked.

The resident told Hanson he received varying responses from those he was told to call. No one had an answer as to who would handle his paperwork. It seemed, he said, several septic approvals had recently been bunched together. Hanson could only direct him to contact the health board’s secretary.