THORNS to the state's too-little, too-late decision to cut ties with CGI, the Canadian IT firm that was hired to create the Vermont Health Connect website. After a $57 million investment, the website lacks the ability to perform what should be simple tasks such as updating insurance renewals. Vermont will still owe millions to CGI under the original $83 million contract, which has netted what can be called a partially-working website.

THORNS to the state of Vermont for negotiating a contract with Optum for the Vermont Health Connect website that was never put out to bid. "We are going to get hammered (for the no-bid process), and I don't care, our job is to solve this with the best resources we've got available, in the time we've got available," Lawrence Miller, chief of health care reform for the state, told VTDigger.org this week. Miller said the RFP process would take too long so the state interviewed contractors and picked the one that could pull off the project.

ROSES to the renewed funding for three years of Have Justice Will Travel, a Vershire-based program that provides a free attorney to alleged victims in abuse cases. A grant award of $341,003 awarded from the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women earlier this week was announced by Sen. Patrick Leahy's Office. Wynona Ward, founder and executive director of the traveling justice program which took 345 calls from Bennington County last year, said often alleged victims cannot afford counsel while alleged abusers can.


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ROSES and congratulations to Bennington resident and 2010 Long Trail School graduate Jordan Shapiro, who was selected to receive a Rotary Global Grant Scholarship. Shapiro is pursuing a master's degree in international relations at Aberystwyth University in Wales.

ROSES to Cambridge Central School football coach Doug Luke, who will be inducted into the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame this weekend. Notably, his nephew Zack Luke, a 2005 CCS graduate, was inducted into that Hall of Fame last weekend, honoring his record-setting career as a quarterback. Doug Luke, who took over the CCS football program in 1998 has accumulated the highest win percentage of coaches with at least 100 wins at .845 and led Cambridge to the 14th longest win streak in section II football at 21 games, the most section championships with 12 in 16 appearances, and a state title.

ROSES to United Counseling Services of Bennington County's summer camp programming for children and adults. Camp Be a Kid, held at Lake Paran in North Bennington, gives children enrolled in UCS services who might not be as successful in a traditional camp setting an opportunity to simply "play and be kids," Lorna Mattern, director of Youth and Family Services, told the Banner. Adult clients of UCS developmental services have the opportunity participate in Gathering Place Camp, a weeklong overnight camp held at Camp Ondawa every August. "No matter the intensiveness of care or severity, I want all clients to experience this ... Everyone is welcome," said UCS Employment Manager Howie Wright. Learn more about UCS and how you can help at www.ucsvt.org.

ROSES to the Bennington County Babe Ruth All-Stars on making it to the 15U Babe Ruth New England Regional this week. The team bowed out of the tournament after two tough losses. Bennington manager Kip O'Neill told the New Hampshire Union Leader: "We came so far and we really had a great summer. The kids played with passion, and battled to the end."

ROSES to Mary Ann Martinez, the former Mount Anthony Union High School Spanish teacher, who passed away recently at the age of 64 after battling leukemia. She is remembered for the care she showed her students and her desire to impart them with appreciation for Spanish-speaking countries. "She was always willing to give her time, if she could," said longtime friend and fellow teacher Ruth Bolton.

ROSES to the Bennington Marauders swim team on winning Division 4 of the Vermont State Swim Championships last weekend in White River Junction.

~Michelle Karas