ROSES to the designated drivers helping friends to celebrate safely on New Year’s Eve (and all year-round). If you’re planning to indulge in alcoholic beverages this holiday, plan on not driving.

ROSES to the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department for again hosting its New Year’s Eve Safe Ride program -- a free service the department has offered since 2009. The program has reduced the average number of DUI arrests for that evening, according to Sheriff Chad D. Schmidt, who said between 150 and 200 rides are typically offered. If you’ve had too much to drink on Dec. 31 and are in need of a ride home between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., call Bennington Taxi at 802-442-9052 for free, safe and sober transportation. "We are accepting donations to fund this event," Schmidt said. "Anyone wishing to donate is asked to make checks payable to the Bennington County Sheriff’s saferide fund. Checks may be mailed to Bennington County Sheriff’s Office, 212 Lincoln St., Bennington, VT 05201.

ROSES to the Walloomsac Farmers Market for staying open and providing area residents the opportunity to purchase local produce and goods year-round. We are fortunate in Bennington to have a core group of local growers that continues to offer fresh local vegetables, homemade canned and baked goods and the like through the winter months. The winter farmers’ market is open January through April on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 601 Main St., Bennington.

THORNS and increased fines to those who continue to text and drive. In Vermont starting January 1, law enforcement officers will be by issuing traffic tickets with steep penalties of five points on a violator’s driver’s license for motorists caught texting and driving- up from two points previously, and with increased fines. The use of other hand-held devices, including MP3 players and GPS devices, will be banned in work zones and could carry fines as high as $479 for a second offense. "Hopefully the threat of higher points and higher fines will deter people from going out there and putting themselves and others in danger," said Bennington Police Lt. Lloyd Dean.

ROSES to those individuals, businesses and organizations that donated to the Vermont Veterans Home this holiday season so that each veteran resident could receive a Christmas gift this year. Michele Burgess, Vermont Veterans Home activity therapist, told the Banner it was, "The best holiday season we’ve seen. The giving in this community is unbelievable."

ROSES to the state of Vermont and Entergy for reaching a deal regarding the future of Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vermont. The decommissioning process will begin four months after it has been determined there is adequate funding, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Monday. "We believe decommissioning should be able to happen, not withstanding unforeseen developments, a lot sooner than 60 years," Shumlin told the Brattleboro Reformer, perhaps before the end of the 2020s. Entergy has also agreed to set aside $2 million for the each of the next five years for the purposes of economic development in Windham County and release $5.2 million it has held in escrow. Half of that money will go to clean energy jobs in Windham County and the rest to state. The sooner this process is underway, the better for Vermont.

~Michelle Karas