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Service corps at Aberdeen to be closed


A week after the first class graduated from the National Civilian Community Corps at Aberdeen Proving Ground, the program's managers said yesterday they are closing the operation that is part of President Clinton's domestic Peace Corps.

The decision to close the Aberdeen operation -- an arm of the AmeriCorps program where 18- to 24-year-olds perform community service in exchange for college tuition or job-training money -- comes as Congress is debating the future of national service programs.

"It's a straight business decision to cut costs," said Jay Toscano, a spokesman at the AmeriCorps headquarters in Washington.

"It was a very, very difficult decision to make," Mr. Toscano said. The Aberdeen operation "has been well run. They've done good things."

But facilities at Aberdeen, mainly dormitories for corps members and classrooms for training, have been inadequate, he said. About $1.5 million would be needed to improve the facilities, he said, and AmeriCorps is unwilling to put that much money into buildings it doesn't own.

Rent at Aberdeen is 10 to 15 percent higher than it is at the other "campuses" at Charleston, S.C., Denver and San Diego, Mr. Toscano said. Those three are on closed or closing military bases, where more and better facilities are available, he said.

Since July, corps members have restored waterways, tutored children, helped veterans and assisted disaster victims. Most of their 150 projects were in the Northeast.

Corps members had to perform at least 1,700 hours of service. In return, they received a living allowance of about $800 monthly and nearly $5,000 toward college or vocational training. About 170 NCCC members completed 11 months of service at Aberdeen last week.

About 250 new corps members were expected at Aberdeen in September. Mr. Toscano said those members would be offered slots at the three other campuses. The NCCC still will perform community service projects in the region, he said.

About 20 full-time NCCC staff members at Aberdeen can seek work at other campuses or AmeriCorps headquarters, officials said.

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