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Chelmsford votes to delay fire chief’s retirement

Voters at Chelmsford Town Meeting last Thursday overwhelmingly approved a home-rule petition that seeks to extend Fire Chief Michael Curran’s tenure until his 67th birthday, two years beyond the mandatory retirement age for fire department personnel in Massachusetts.

The vote was 133 to 7. Two representatives abstained from voting.

“I’m very grateful for the support of the Town Meeting representatives,” said Curran, a 36-year-veteran of the department who has been serving as Chelmsford’s fire chief for two years.

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For Curran to stay on the job after he turns 65 in July, the Legislature must approve the petition. Lawmakers are expected to take up the issue soon after they reconvene in January.

Town Manager Paul E. Cohen said the town’s primary reason for seeking the extension has to do with turnover in the department. A quarter of the town’s 55 firefighters have less than one year of experience. The nine officers in the department — two deputy chiefs and seven captains — all have less than two years in their current positions.

Extending Curran’s tenure “is going to benefit both the town and the Fire Department. There’s been so much turnover in the department, and the officer positions, that it will be good for the town to have two more years before there’s another change at the top,” said Cohen, noting that the extension also would allow Curran to oversee construction of the new Center Fire Station.

Construction on that project is expected to begin next year. Under the current plan, existing town offices on Billerica Road will be converted into office and meeting space for the Fire Department and an attached addition will be built to house fire apparatus and equipment, a kitchen, and sleeping quarters for the firefighters assigned to the station.

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