SHIRLEY — Police Chief Greg Massak, a 35-year law-enforcement veteran, alerted selectmen in a letter at their meeting Monday night that he is retiring when his contract expires June 30.
Massak’s contract is up at the end of the current fiscal year, he said, and he decided not to pursue an extension after negotiations failed to reach a compromise.
“We were in the process of negotiating a year extension, but it didn’t pan out,” said Massak, 56. “We couldn’t come to an agreement.”
Massak’s salary is just shy of $84,000 in fiscal 2014, which ends June 30.
Selectman Dave Swain said the town offered Massak a 2 percent raise plus his regular stipend for educational expenses and uniform expenses, among other benefits.
Swain said Massak came to the table requesting an increase in all of his stipend amounts, as well as two step increases instead of the one other town employees receive.
Swain said the main issue was the town being able to afford a considerable raise for any town employees.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have any money to be flexible here,” Swain said. “There’s just no money.”
Massak said he’ll miss the town’s residents most when he leaves.
“There’s a lot of really terrific people in this town, especially the officers I work with,” he said. “There’s been a lot of great people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, including the Fire Department, EMS, the DPW and the people in the schools. We’ve been working closely with them for the kids’ safety. There’s a lot of good people in the school system.”
One of the biggest difficulties that comes with the job, Massak said, is being a “working” chief. He said he still goes out on patrols like his officers, but is also in charge of the daily administration of the department.
He also works a four-days-on, two-days-off schedule, which he believes is not an ideal situation for a chief.
“Being a working chief has been difficult,” he said. “That won’t change because they aren’t going to hire another officer. Whoever takes my place will do the same thing.”
Massak said he has approached the town administrator and selectmen with recommendations on how to go about the search and selection process for his replacement, but he said it’s up to them on how the plan is executed.
He said he believes if a committee is formed to conduct the search, the town should consider putting chiefs from surrounding towns on it because the new chief will work directly with them regularly.
“They’re a good springboard,” he said. “They can give suggestions on who they would want to work with, who impressed them in the interviews. You can have business owners on the interview panel, but I think when you get to this level … you should have some active chiefs from surrounding communities.”
Massak believes it would be a positive thing for morale if an officer were promoted from within, referring to the hiring of Robert DeMoura as chief in Fitchburg several years ago. DeMoura is stepping down.
“We’re looking at all the problems Fitchburg is facing,” he said. “They didn’t hire from within last time with DeMoura, and they aren’t hiring someone from within now. It’s good to promote from within. I don’t know if anyone wants the job, though, because we’re so short-staffed, because they would be responsible for so many things.”
Some of his biggest accomplishments, he said, were upgrading much of the department’s radio equipment, securing a number of new cruisers and getting $80,000 in state grants to pay for dispatcher salaries and equipment upgrades.
Massak is a call fireman for the Lunenburg Fire Department and plans to continue that while also pursuing other police endeavors, which could include teaching either at one of the local colleges or universities or through the police academy.
He hasn’t ruled out the possibility of working for another police department, particularly as an interim chief if the opportunity presents itself.
“If an opportunity came up where they needed an interim person while they hired someone else, I would do it in a heartbeat,” he said.
Swain said a search committee will be put together, but who will be on the committee and what criteria the selectmen will use in appointing members has not been established.
“He will be sorely missed,” Swain said. “Anyone who has been a police officer in one town for 30 years has helped a lot of people in that time, and he’s no exception to that.”
Massak has an associate’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Selectmen Bob Prescott and Kendra Dumont, as well as Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
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