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Vandal Watch Program Cut; Families Lose School Housing : Budget: Residents who provide security in exchange for free rent and utilities must move out by next June.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Twenty-four people will be forced to move because the Westminster School District board has canceled a program allowing them to live on campuses, where they provide security.

Board members voted Thursday to end Vandal Watch, saying the $12,000-a-year program may not be cost-effective and has raised concerns over liability.

However, the participants in Vandal Watch, which began in 1980, bitterly assailed the board’s action, saying the move might make some of them homeless.

“Lives are at stake,” Don Winderman, 35, told the board.

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Under the program, participants live on 10 campuses and patrol daily for signs of damage or suspicious activity. The tenants live with their families in prefabricated homes they purchased and pay no rent or utilities in exchange for their services.

The board voted unanimously to end the program effective June 30, 1994. As a result, 24 people including spouses and children must find new places to live.

Winderman, a tenant at the joint campuses of Helen Stacey Intermediate and Ada E. Clegg Elementary schools, said he, his wife and their two children will have nowhere to go.

“I’ll be in financial ruin and be homeless,” he said before the board voted.

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Arthur Selle, 47, who lives on Neomia B. Willmore Elementary with his wife, said it would cost as much as $7,000 to move to a mobile home park even if he could find one that would accept his older-model home.

Because he is temporarily disabled and living on his wife’s income, there is no money to move, so “I have no place to go.”

About two dozen other tenants and their supporters denounced the decision.

However, the board felt that new security improvements, including better lighting, more fences and sophisticated alarm systems, along with changes in night custodian staffing, would make the program obsolete.

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Those improvements are now being phased in at all district schools, said Barbara Winars, assistant superintendent of administrative services.

After the meeting, board President Kathy Stirling Iverson expressed sympathy for the tenants, adding that decisions that hurt people “are never pleasant. It’s not something you want to do to move people from their houses.”


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