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Selectmen refuse renewal <p>of 16-year director’s contract <p>

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HARVARD — The selectmen didn’t discuss their reasons, but the board voted not to renew the contract of Department of Public Works Director Jim Smith. Smith’s contract will expire at the end of June 2006.

Smith has held the post for 16 years, but according to town administrator Paul Cohen, the board has decided it is time for someone else to take the helm of the town’s department of public works.

Cohen said board members have some concerns about Smith’s judgment, most notably past decisions concerning the water system and a series of recent mishaps when Smith is said to have driven the town’s wide-angle wing plow and damaged a number of utility poles on Westcott, Partridge Hill and Depot roads during a snowstorm.

While explaining his departmental budget at the board meeting Tuesday night, Smith said that he was the only employee on the public works crew who could drive the specially equipped plow, which he said can clear the roads twice as fast because it cuts a wider swath. This time, however, it sheared off a couple of utility poles and hit a parked vehicle and a fire hydrant while Smith was driving.

The meeting, which began as usual at 7:30, went into executive session and resumed after 10:30 p.m., at which time contract renewals for Smith, town administrator Paul Cohen, Fire Chief Robert Mignard and Police Chief Edward Denmark came up on the agenda. Employment agreements with Mignard, Denmark and Cohen were okayed, but Smith’s was not. With the exception of Cohen, none of the department heads were present when the vote took place.

Smith was informed of the board’s decision the next morning, at which time he decided to take a couple of vacation days off, Cohen said.

As a result, the DPW director was not available for comment and reportedly will not return to work until next Tuesday.