ROSES to Bennington Select Board and local school boards for initiating the first-ever joint budget presentation, to be held on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Bennington Fire House. Representatives of the Bennington School District Board, Mount Anthony Union District Board, Southwest Vermont Career Development Center Board, and Southwestern Vermont Supervisory Union Board will present their budgets, as will the select board. It's good to see such collaboration and communication between town and school leaders.

THORNS to cuts to food stamps benefits as part of the recently passed Farm Bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders said this week the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cuts are disappointing and that it's "both morally and economically wrong to cut assistance to families in a very difficult economy." Roughly 21,000 Vermont families are set to lose benefits worth an average of $90 a month.

ROSES to the Transportation Alternatives Program $74,000 grant that will enable the Village of North Bennington to repair the roof of the stately and historic North Bennington Train Depot.

ROSES to Mount Anthony Union High School swimmer Phebe Hall who set a new school record in the 200 individual medley. At the Berkshire Swim League Individuals last weekend at Simons Rock College, Hall swam the medley in 2 minutes, 23.64 seconds, besting the old mark set by Heather Foley of 2:24.78.

ROSES to a plan to launch a rapid drug addiction intervention program in Bennington County this spring.


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The program would be similar to the one Gov. Peter Shumlin announced in Rutland Monday. Erica Marthage, Bennington County State's Attorney, told the Banner the logistics of such an operation could be worked out in short order, but who would provide the screening service for offenders would need to be determined first. It's cheaper to provide drug treatment than to incarcerate an offender, so treatment should be available when appropriate, said the governor.

THORNS to the rampant abuse of heroin, its doppelganger Fentanyl, and other opiates in Vermont and nationwide. Three recent overdose deaths in Addison County were the result of users taking the narcotic Fentanyl as though it were heroin, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

ROSES to "The Opiate Effect," the free Vermont documentary on heroin abuse available at http:///vimeo.com/41741770. Produced by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont, it seeks to educate young people and their parents about the dangers of opiate prescription drug and heroin use by drawing on the stories of a number of heroin addicts in recovery. Another wonderful documentary on the opiate addiction problem in Vermont is "The Hungry Heart" -- not a free download, but definitely worth seeing.

ROSES to all the brave, fearless people who took the Penguin Plunge into Lake Paran during the Winterfest celebration in North Bennington last Saturday. By jumping into the frigid waters, they raised money for Special Olympics Vermont -- another event for brave, fearless people.

~Michelle Karas