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Uninsured drivers will cost taxpayers

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Two accidents involving school property are proving costly for Delta County Joint School District, district business manager Jim Ventrello reported last week. Both incidents involved uninsured drivers, forcing the school district to file claims with its insurance provider and pay deductibles of $10,000.

In March, an irrigation pump house at Delta Middle School was destroyed by a driver attempting to elude law enforcement officers. Pedro Lopez, 29, of Grand Junction is facing several charges, including vehicular eluding, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and driving under revocation.

The cost of replacing the pump house, controls and possibly the pump has been estimated at a little over $30,000, Ventrello said. The school district will pay the $10,000 deductible and insurance will cover the rest.

Then on March 27, a school bus was rear-ended while stopping to pick up children in North Delta. Samuel Rascon of Hobbs, N.M., struck the rear end of the bus, damaging the frame so severely that the safety of the bus was compromised. As a result, the bus was determined to be a total loss. The depreciated value of the bus has been estimated at $17,000, minus the $1,000 deductible the school district carries on vehicles.

Ventrello said the bus was purchased in 2004 for $65,000; a replacement will run close to $100,000.

The school district and its insurance carrier intend to seek restitution from Rascon not only for the bus, but for medical costs incurred by 15 children transported to Delta County Memorial Hospital. All were treated for minor injuries and released. The deductible on that side of the equation is $10,000, Ventrello said.

"The families who were involved will not and should not be out any money," he said.

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