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Vol. 151 Issue 8
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Police probe baby’s death
Caro man accused of kidnapping, beating victim sentenced to prison
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Prime time for Watrousville: Show touts ‘haunted’ house By Tom Gilchrist Reporter
In some ways, perhaps, spirits aligned so an iconic Tuscola County house – reported to harbor ghosts – could be featured in Friday’s 9 p.m. premiere of the Travel Channel show “Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests.” How else could a Vassar native, living in Los Angeles, become good friends with a TV executive producer and, over lunch, tell him about the “Wedding Cake House” near Watrousville at the precise time the producer sought haunted residences for a new TV series? And have the producer pounce on creating a show about a home along Ringle Road south of M-81 about seven miles northeast of Vassar? “I think for me the most amazing part of it is just that things had to happen at the right time,” said Nick LaPratt, 38, a Los Angeles resident and 1999 Vassar High School graduate who works as a marketing director for Safeco Insurance. “I was lucky enough to make a really good friend out here in Los Angeles,
This home along Ringle Road, completed in 1880 for Richard C. Burtis and his wife, Flora (Chubbs) Burtis, is known for its Second Empire architecture and reports that ghosts inhabit the dwelling. The 9 p.m. Friday premiere episode of a Travel Channel TV show, “Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests,” examines that possibility.
and I had nothing to do with the TV industry at all,” LaPratt said. “That’s odd in itself. But then I connected with some folks who are very celebrated executive producers in the TV industry.” The house featured in Friday’s show,
completed in 1880 and renowned for its architecture, is haunted by ghosts of at least three different adults, according to its owners, Conrad and Jessica Dowe. See HAUNTED A12
By John Schneider Editor
An 18-year-old man who prosecutors say tied him up and kidnapped a man, then drove him to a secluded area before beating him, has been sentenced to a prison term. JakobAlexandre Rajkovic, of Caro, was handed a two-to-15-year prison term Monday by Tuscola County Circuit Court Judge Amy Grace Gierhart. According to witness testimony contained in RAJKOVIC court records, the victim and a friend on July 31, 2018, arrived at the Juniata Township home of a female acquaintance after she had agreed to hang out with the victim. After a few moments of knocking at the door, two men and a woman pulled into the driveway in a blue Ford Explorer. See RAJKOVIC A9
Staffing levels, patient population uncertain at Caro Center By Mark Haney Reporter
Just how many people work at the Caro Center? It depends on who you ask and when you ask, according to Jean Doss. Doss, of the lobbying firm Capitol Consultants, said Monday she’s been unable to lock down a number for the state psychiatric facility at M-81 and Chambers Road in Indianfields Township. Doss admitted as much while making a teleconference video report to the Tuscola County Board of Commissioners during a Committee of the Whole session (at such sessions the commissioners can discuss issues but can’t take action). The numbers Doss and her staff have gotten from state officials often change from 390 cited by the Department of Health and Human Services to 406-407 that turns up in studies Doss has done of state employment records for the Caro Center. “I can tell you that in the governor’s own executive budget proposal,” Doss said, “she took the extra money provided in the supplemental in
September for 68 new staff in Caro and her anticipated staffing levels as of March was 542 employees. “I have never gotten the same answer twice when I ask how many full-time employees there are at Caro.” Doss’ firm was hired in March by the commissioners in an effort to keep a $115 million, 200-bed state psychiatric hospital in Wahjamega in Indianfields Township. That came just after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer halted construction of a 225,000-squarefoot new state psychiatric hospital on 650 state-owned acres at M-81 and Chambers Road in Indianfields Township. Whitmer cited the city of Caro’s charge of $2.5 million for water service, staffing shortages, recruitment barriers, finding a permanent staff psychiatrist and the ability of families to be involved in treatment due to the location as reasons for the change in course. She then hired Owings Mills, Marylandbased accounting firm Myers and Stauffer to review the decision to build, even after Tuscola County officials had assured state officials the county could provide water to
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MILLINGTON | A2 School district, teachers ink pact Teachers at Millington Community Schools are getting a raise. The school district and the teachers’ union – the Millington Education Association – agreed in late June to a two-year contract. That contract was ratified Aug. 5 by the board of education. It already had been ratified by the union’s 59 members.
SANILAC CO. | A2 Horse killed County crash
A 34-year-old woman on Monday crashed her vehicle into a horse that had gotten loose, resulting in injuries to the woman and the death of the horse, according to a press release from the Sanilac County Sheriff’s Office.
CARO | A3 Students offered shoes, hot dogs
A lobbying firm hired by Tuscola County has been unable to pin down the exact number of Caro Center employees.
the new facility for about $1 million by upgrading the well-based water system the Caro Center already was using. See CARO CENTER A9
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See BABY A6
Michigan State Police said they’re assisting in investigating the Sunday death of a 1-month-old baby in the Fairgrove area. A detective at the state police post in Caro is examining circumstances surrounding the infant girl’s death. The Advertiser could not reach the investigator for comment as of press time. “It appears the 19-yearold mother fell asleep while feeding the baby,” said 1st Lt. David Kaiser of state police 3rd District headquarters in Flint. Kaiser said he didn’t know if the mother was breastfeeding the baby, or using a bottle or other method. State police indicated they’re assisting the Akron Police Department – which covers Fairgrove Township as well as the village of Akron – on the case.
Football sneek peek
Tuscola County students will have two opportunities to receive up to two pairs of free shoes apiece this weekend, courtesy of Kare & Serve Inc. The Christian-based nonprofit organization provides new and used shoes from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul Lutheran Church at 503 S. State St. in Caro. Each student may receive up to two pairs of free socks as well.
CASS CITY | B1 Through four decades, Markel’s made the connection As a wrestler, you have to be pretty flexible. And, among other things, Don Markel was a wrestler. A pretty good one, in fact.
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A2 — Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
Second Front Page
School district, teachers ink pact By Mark Haney Reporter
The Caro City Council last week voted to work on an ordinance which would allow medical marijuana facilities inside city limits. Pictured are (from left) Caro city manager Michael Silverman, Caro Mayor Joe Greene and Caro treasurer/clerk Sara Savage.
Caro votes to allow medical marijuana facilities By John Schneider Editor
The Caro City Council voted Aug. 5 to get the ball rolling on potential medical marijuana facilities within city limits. Caro city manager Michael Silverman gave the council two options – to allow the city to begin working with an attorney on adopting a medical marijuana ordinance, or to do nothing on the issue of medical marijuana, and therefore stopping the process of allowing facilities within Caro. The Caro voted 5-2 to begin the process which could lead to medical marijuana facilities in Caro, with Mayor Joe Greene and council members Tisha
Jones-Holubec, Bob Essenmacher, Megan Ewald and Don Hall voting yes, and council members Charlotte Kish and Brian Rickwalt voting no. “I’m not for or against it,” Hall said. “I’m here for the people and the people voted yes for it.” Hall’s comment is in reference to 2018 Michigan Proposal 18-1, which asked state residents to vote for or against legalization of recreational marijuana, which carries different regulations than medical marijuana. While most Tuscola County communities voted no for recreational marijuana legalization, Caro residents voted yes 898-793. See MARIJUANA A6
Horse killed in Sanilac County crash A 34-year-old woman on Monday crashed her vehicle into a horse that had gotten loose, resulting in injuries to the woman and the death of the horse, according to a press release from the Sanilac County Sheriff’s Office. At about 3 p.m., Sanilac County Central Dispatch received a call about a horse/ vehicle crash in Flynn Township. An investigation determined that Erin Lipka was traveling south on Maple Valley Road north of West Peck Road in a Buick Encore when a horse, which had gotten loose, ran in front of her vehicle. She struck the
horse with the front of her vehicle. Lipka was treated for injuries at the scene then transported to McLaren Lapeer Region Hospital. She was wearing a seatbelt, an airbag was deployed and alcohol does not appear to be a factor, according to the sheriff’s office. It was determined the horse, which was tied up outside of the Yoder General Store, had broken free and ran into the road. Due to its injuries, the horse was put down by its owner. The sheriff’s office was assisted on scene by Brown City Fire and Rescue.
Teachers at Millington Community Schools are getting a raise. The school district and the teachers’ union – the Millington Education Association – agreed in late June to a two-year contract. That contract was ratified Aug. 5 by the board of education. It already had been ratified by the union’s 59 members. “I truly believe this is a win-win for both parties,” said Superintendent Larry Kroswek. The agreement calls for a two percent wage hike in the first year, and no raise in the second. “We actually built our budget, prorated out for three years, for 1, 1, and 1 percent increases,” said Kroswek. “This falls right within what we actually budgeted for.” Kroswek said the two sides had five or six negotiation sessions before reaching an agreement. And those talks came after the May 7 election, when the school
The Millington School District and its teacher’s union agreed to a new twoyear contract, which was signed earlier this month.
district’s sinking fund bond issue was on the ballot. “Our teachers’ union was very cooperative in helping us pass the sinking fund, and then patient in letting us negotiate after the election,” Kroswek said. “No matter how the election went, they were patient and very cooperative in that sense. They really wanted that sinking fund passed.” There also were some minor changes in the contract language as well. See MILLINGTON SCHOOLS A7
TUSCOLA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Almer Township When: 8/10/2019 12:45:00 AM Incident: Traffic, NonCriminal – Accident When: 8/11/2019 10:00:00 AM Incident: Traffic, NonCriminal – Accident Arbela Township When: 8/9/2019 1:05:00 PM Incident: Traffic, NonCriminal – Traffic Investigations/Surveys When: 8/12/2019 2:02:00 PM Incident: Burglary – Forced Entry – Residence (Including Home Invasion)
Dayton Township When: 8/9/2019 8:13:00 PM Incident: Traffic, NonCriminal – Accident
When: 8/11/2019 12:52:00 PM
Denmark Township When: 8/9/2019 10:30:00 AM Incident: Inspections/ Investigations – Other Inspections When: 8/9/2019 11:00:00 AM Incident: Inspections/ Investigations – Other Inspections When: 8/10/2019 4:45:00 AM Incident: Inspections/ Investigations – Suspicious Situations When: 8/11/2019 12:38:00 PM Incident: Miscellaneous – Non-Criminal
Columbia Township When: 8/9/2019 11:30:00 PM Incident: Miscellaneous – Non-Criminal
When: 8/10/2019 10:22:00 AM Incident: Trespass (Other)
Incident: Traffic, NonCriminal – Accident
Elkland Township When: 8/9/2019 4:47:00 PM Incident: Inspections/ Investigations – Family Trouble When: 8/12/2019 3:53:00 PM Incident: Inspections/ Investigations – Other Inspections
S D N BA Ellington Township
When: 8/10/2019 11:16:00 AM Incident: Assault and Battery/Simple Assault
When: 8/11/2019 4:00:00 PM Incident: Traffic, NonCriminal – Accident
When: 8/10/2019 11:16:00 AM Incident: Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor
Indianfields Township When: 8/9/2019 12:34:00 AM Incident: Violation – Reg – Improper Use of MPSC Plate
Fremont Township When: 8/9/2019 11:50:00 PM Incident: Assault and Battery/Simple Assault When: 8/12/2019 12:54:00 AM Incident: Liquor Violation – Possession of Alcoholic Liquor in a Motor Vehicle
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Friday $3 per person Saturday $5 per person
When: 8/11/2019 4:13:00 AM Incident: Miscellaneous – General Assistance Juniata Township When: 8/11/2019 6:09:00 AM Incident: False Alarm
When: 8/12/2019 12:54:00 AM Incident: Traffic – Driver License Law Violations
When: 8/11/2019 7:30:00 PM Incident: Inspections/ Investigations – Suspicious Situations
When: 8/12/2019 12:54:00 AM Incident: Violation – Insurance – Other Commission Rules
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When: 8/9/2019 8:35:00 AM Incident: Miscellaneous – Assist to EMS
When: 8/12/2019 12:54:00 AM Incident: Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor
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Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
Thumb Community TUSCOLA COUNTY
Students offered free shoes, hot dogs EXCHANGE By Tom Gilchrist Reporter
Tuscola County students can receive two pairs of free shoes apiece this weekend, courtesy of Kare & Serve Inc. The Christian-based nonprofit organization provides new and used shoes from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul Lutheran Church at 503 S. State St. in Caro. Each student may receive up to two pairs of free socks as well. A second giveaway occurs from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at White Birch Park (also known as Sticks Park) at 465 S. West St. in Vassar. “Last year we just did it in Caro on one day, but we felt that some people might not be able to make it on that day, so we decided to hold it in Vassar as well,” said Ellenore Pringle, secretary/treasurer of Kare & Serve Inc., which brings about 350 pairs of shoes to St. Paul Lutheran in Caro. About 120 pairs are new. “We also understood there were quite a few more under-resourced students in the Vassar area,” said Pringle, noting the shoes are given to students from elementary school through high school. Students also receive a free meal on Saturday and Sunday at each event, part of the “Happy Feet Shoe Giveaway.” “We always try to make this sort of a fun event so we’re grilling hot dogs, and serving chips and drinks,” Pringle said. Last year, students in 87 families received free shoes at the Kare & Serve event in Caro, but Pringle hopes more families will benefit from the giveaway this weekend in Tuscola County, where Kare & Serve focuses its efforts. Pringle said Angila Heinitz of the Tuscola Intermediate School District has promoted the free-shoe project to local educators to try to spread word of the event to students. Projects organized by Kare & Serve Inc., founded in 2015, also provide food, winter apparel and hygiene products to Tuscola County students, in addition to paying for Thumbody Express and driver-education fees. “When we first started out we donated 1,600 backpacks full of school supplies, to seven school systems (in several counties),” Pringle said. “But through the years we’ve decided to focus our energy in Tuscola County working with those students.” Pringle said the group aims to address “basic needs” of Tuscola County students. Readers can donate to help the nonprofit
Debbie from Freeport has shared her recipe for Hot Dog Relish with lots of friends and family over the years. Dan from Quincy says his Everything But Lynn Eckerle The Kitchen Sink Relish is delicious served over grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Please stop by my blog, Food, Fun and More for a visit at w w w. l s e c k e r l e . w o r d p r e s s . c o m . Send recipes and requests to The Recipe Exchange at lynneckerle@ gmail.com. HOT DOG RELISH 3 peeled carrots 3 sweet red peppers, cored and seeded 8 c coarsely chopped cucumbers 8 c peeled and quartered green tomatoes 8 c peeled and quartered onions 1/2 c salt 3 c sugar 1 1/2 c white vinegar 1/2 t cayenne pepper 2 T mixed pickling spices
About 350 pairs of free shoes will be given to Tuscola County students at events in Caro and Vassar this weekend. Kare & Serve Inc., a Christian-based nonprofit organization, hosts the events, where students also receive free hot dogs, chips and beverages.
organization’s projects by visiting the “Kare & Serve, Inc.” Facebook page. Readers also can visit www.kareandserve.com. The group’s grant funds and financial support comes from the Mid-Michigan chapter of 100+ Women Who Care based in Frankenmuth, the Vassar chapter of 100+ Women Who Care, Thrivent Financial of Frankenmuth and Blue Cross Complete of Michigan. “They provide us with the financial means to continue our mission,” Pringle said. Blue Cross Complete financed the food
Foundation board members appointed CARO – John Hunter, Executive Director of the Tuscola County Community Foundation, announced the appointment of three new members to the Board of Trustees. New members include Debra L. Kranz, a licensed funeral home director and business owner in the Cass City area since 1990 and the Hon. Nancy L. Thane, of Caro, who began her term as probate judge effective Jan. 1, 2013, and also serves as the family court presiding judge. Logan Gutierrez, a student at Millington Community Schools, is also a new board member representing Future Youth Involvement, the youth advisory council of the Foundation. For more information about the Foundation call 989-673-8223 or visit www. tuscolaccf.org.
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Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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My name is George and I’m a treeing hound dog. My master had a medical incident and will not be returning home ~~ so I have no home to return to either. I’m a very loveable guy that loves to run and roll around outside. I like other dogs and ALL humans big and small. If you pet me, feed me, and let me in and out, I will be happy and devoted to you for the rest of my life. I just want a chair to lay in and watch TV with someone. It would be great if you would call Pam @ (989) 843-7723 for a meet and greet. “Like” Cass River Pet FriendZ on Facebook and visit http://www.petfriendz.com. One last thing.... please spay/neuter your pets. Help is available if you are low income!
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and socks provided to the public at this weekend’s event in Caro and Vassar. Readers can find more information on that organization’s charity efforts at www.mibluecrosscomplete.com.
DIRECTIONS: Finely chop or grind vegetables in a food processor or blender. Place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let stand overnight. Drain well and place mixture in a large pot. Add sugar, vinegar and cayenne pepper. Place pickling spices in a square of cheesecloth and use string or a twist tie to close. Add to vegetable mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower temperature and continue to simmer for 45 minutes. Remove spice bag. Pour relish into hot sterilized pint jars. Seal with rings and lids. Makes about 6 pints. EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK RELISH 16 medium chopped and cored green tomatoes 8 medium chopped, peeled and cored red ripe tomatoes 1 small head cabbage 3 onions, chopped 3 stalks celery, chopped 1 medium cucumber, chopped 1 c chopped green peppers 1 c red sweet peppers 1/2 c salt 4 c brown sugar 1 T celery seed 1 T cinnamon 1 t ginger 1/2 t ground cloves 1 clove of garlic, minced 2 qts vinegar DIRECTIONS: Combine green and red tomatoes, cabbage, onions, celery, cucumber, green peppers and sweet red peppers in a large bowl or crock. Add salt and mix well with a wooden spoon. Let stand for a day. Rinse vegetables and thoroughly drain. Combine brown sugar, celery seed, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, garlic and vinegar in a stock pot. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add vegetables, stir and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Bring mixture to a boil. Pack hot relish into hot pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal with lids and finger tightened rings. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Set jars on a towel on the counter to cool. Leave undisturbed for 24 hours.
A6 — Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
Did you know?
Continued from A2
There are five types of facilities associated with medical marijuana – grower, processor (converts the product to a usable form), secure transporter (stores and transports the product), provisioning center (which sells the product) and safety compliance facility (to test the product). A single company often oversees each type facility (with the exception of a testing facility) as one business. Following completion of an ordinance, all five types of facilities would be allowed in Caro. Before the city council began in earnest, there was an about-40-minute publiccomment period in which residents spoke for and against medical marijuana facilities. “I’m here to speak in favor of the medical marijuana and encourage the council to vote to work with your attorney and authorize an ordinance because of the jobs it brings our community and the tax breaks it brings to our community,” said resident Mark Volmer. Vollmer, a local farmer, told the council he has spoken to officials who would be interested in bringing a medical marijuana business to Caro. “A company approached us and stated he would start out with a minimum of 50 new jobs, and at full compacity, 100 new jobs,” Vollmer said. “It would be local residents, and starting pay with no skill right out of high school would be double the minimum wage with a full benefit package.” Also at the council meeting were Caro Police Chief Brian Newcomb and Caro Sheriff Glen Skrent. “I’m not going to get into a debate on the good or evil of marijuana,” Newcomb said. “But obviously as law enforcement officers, Sheriff Skrent and I don’t support it.” Newcomb told the council that he and Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene lobbied against recreational marijuana, prior to the 2018 election. Newcomb and Reene presented information on the negative effect recreational marijuana has had in the states that have legalized it, especially in Colorado, the first state to do so.
Skrent voiced his concern about how an increase in marijuana locally could become taxing for law enforcement, especially while keeping the roads safe. “Marijuana is not the root of all evil at all, but I’ve been sheriff for four years and with this department for 42,” Skrent said. “And I see the big picture. Yeah, you can smoke a joint at home and you’re OK. And you can drink a six pack (of beer) at home. But from my end, people don’t do that. They are driving under the influence of marijuana.” Vollmer said that whether or not the council approved medical marijuana, the using of marijuana would still be legal because of the passing of Proposal 18-1. “People get tremendous medical benefits from marijuana, and whether or not the city opts in, people have a legal right to use the product within your jurisdiction,” he said. “The only thing the city council can do is decide whether or not to allow a business within the community to have commercial activity. Or are you going to require your citizens to go to a neighboring town to engage in that activity?” The council also: • Asked contractors to submit bids for a new Caro Police Department building which would be adjacent to the Caro Municipal building and fire department, 317 S. State St. The deadline for bids is Sept. 2. • Tabled for now the discussion of where to place a “Welcome to Caro” sign on M-24 south of town. Another sign, located west of Caro on M-81, is also being constructed. • Voted to hire Sara Savage as clerk/ treasurer. Savage had been working as the city’s interim clerk/manager. • Accepted the resignation of Evan Osentoski from the city’s board of review and planning commission. Osentoski recently moved outside city limits. • Voted to approve a $5,000 raise – from $75,000 to $80,000 – for Silverman following his first year as city manager. John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at john@ tcadvertiser.com.
The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children should get at least one hour of physical activity per day. The AAFP notes that many kids easily achieve that marker simply by being children and engaging in the activities kids are drawn to each day, such as running, climbing and playing games like tag with other youngsters. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) notes that exercise needs change as children advance through various stages in life, and that means activities should change along with them. For example, the CPS recommends that physical activities for toddlers should be fun and encourage children to explore and try new things. Unstructured physical activity or free play can benefit toddlers. As toddlers become preschoolers, physical activities can become more structured, though the CPS notes that children this age may not understand the rules of organized sports nor are they necessarily coordinated enough to participate in them. However, structured activities like games of tag and throwing and catching may be appropriate for some preschoolers.
As children enter kindergarten and advance through elementary school, physical activities can be moderate to vigorous in intensity. Organized sports can become part of the fitness regimen at this time, though the CPS recommends short instruction times, flexible rules, free time in practices, and a focus on fun rather than competition. Parents who want to learn about ageappropriate physical activities can encourage their children to embrace fitness and are urged to speak with their children’s physicians.
Continued from A1
The Advertiser could not reach Akron Police Department officers for comment. Kaiser indicated Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene requested state police assistance with the investigation. It appears the girl died due to unsafe sleep practices, according to Reene, a source for an abc12.com report. The infant’s mother was in bed with her before the baby was found not breathing, according to the report. “We implore everyone who has a baby, who knows someone who has a baby, to talk about safe sleep practices,” Reene states in the report. “There are certain situations
where you don’t get second chances. This is one of those situations. There’s no second chance here and it is a preventable death.” The infant was born July 6, according to the online report. Putting your baby in bed with you, or bed-sharing, is hazardous and increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to kidshealth.org. While the number of babies who die from SIDS has been falling, the number of babies dying from accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed skyrocketed 184 percent from 1999 to 2015, according to statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
Continued from A4
That doesn’t mean things are not being done. School officials met with management leader Chip Hendrick, of R.C. Hendrick and Son Construction of Saginaw, and architect Neale Bauman to fine tune the plans for Meachum. “The original designs were all of the wishes,” Kroswek said. “So now we are scaling it down to what we want and what we truly need. It will mean cost savings, but it still will be a brand-new building, or so.” In some cases, the choices are clear. Rather than create a new library, the workers simply will renovate and update the school’s original library. Instead of creating an office for each Tuscola Intermediate School District itinerant staff, the workers will create one space they all can share. “We would like to complete the Meachum project for around $4.5 or $4.7 million,” Kroswek said in the memo to board members. “We think we
can get there.” The sinking fund approved in the May election will raise $7.32 million the district will use to upgrade and renovate Meachum Junior High School, built in 1949, to house grades K-5. Those students will move from Kirk Elementary School, where the older, two-story section will be demolished. Those using space at Meachum – the district office, Head Start, early childhood special education, preschool , Mott Early College – then will move to the one-floor area of the Kirk building, which has the 12 newest classrooms, with the Kirk library turned into a school board meeting room. The sinking fund also will raise money for other capital projects in the district. Mark Haney is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Township works on roads Dayton Township still is dealing with the aftermath of the Memorial Day weekend flooding. “Hurds Corner (Road) was a disaster,” said Supervisor Bob Cook. “We had a lot of cross tubes that washed out.” The six-plus inches of rain that fell the morning of May 25 caused damage on Lee Hill, Chantiny, Phelps Lake, Plain, Shay Lake and Cat Lake roads. “Now and then you find spots you hadn’t seen,” said Cook. “There are places where you wouldn’t think there would be a problem and you discover later there is a problem.” Some of them still are not repaired, Cook said, “though they really are getting along pretty good. “They are getting a lot better. The road commission is working as hard as it can.”
All of those road repairs are having an effect on the township’s road budget. “(The roads) are kind of getting into our budget a little bit, but not too bad,” said Cook. “We are going to have to use a little more gravel than we had planned to patch the roads up.” The only big road project the township had planned for this year was paving on Shay Lake Road, from Reid to Gifford roads, plus another layer of pavement for the bridge on Shay Lake Road. “That road was paved not too many years ago,” Cook said, “but it just didn’t hold.” The township also plans to chipand-seal Cat Lake Road, from M-46 to Harmon Lake Road. A chip-and-seal is a layer of liquid asphalt with a layer of stone over it.
Continued from A2
“Some of the things we looked at together were costsavings for the district,” Kroswek said. “We looked at being able to have language changes for better administration and management of the district. Also we looked to see where we were in the second year and to reopen negotiations in just the financial areas.” The school board also: • Approved the purchase of $6,660 in math workbooks for Kirk Elementary School from McGrawHill Education of New York. “They are consumables,” Kroswek said. “You can’t reuse them. That is why you have to replace them every year.” • Approved keeping Jason Germain as the district’s athletic director. • Approved paying Design Forum of Grand Rapids for work done on the renovation designs for the Meachum Junior High School building. That money will come out of the sinking fund income. • Approved the purchase of $78,480.86 in improved
network switches for the district’s technology network. The Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund “e-rate” money, which is meant for telecommunications services, internet access and internal connections equipment for eligible schools and libraries, will cover 80 percent of that expense, or $62,784.69. The remaining $15,696.17 owed by the district will be paid out of the sinking fund. • Recognized the Terrence S. Kaiser and Barbara A. Kaiser Foundation for its donations to help provide Chromebook computers for elementary school students and to the Eastern Michigan Food Bank to fund a backpack program for grade K-8 students. • Recognized the donation from the Tuscola County Community Foundation to purchase Chromebook computers for use in athletics for statistics, data and the running of
competitions. • Recognized the donation of the Kirk Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization to provide two water fountain bottle-filling stations at the renovated Meachum building. • Learned the first Art and Luella Saeger Volunteerism Award will be given to Gerry and Barb Smith. The presentation will be made during an upcoming home basketball game. • Approved a new junior/senior high school course offering guide. • Authorized Kroswek to resolve any outstanding personnel issues left over from the 2018-19 fiscal year. Mark Haney is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at email@example.com.
WELLNESS CENTER OF CARO
Tuscola County’s Premiere “School of Choice” Deadline August 29th
Elementary Schools: • Average Class Size 23
Alternative Education: • Seat Time Waiver
• Full Time Social Worker • Chromebooks for every student (K-12) • Parent Teacher Organizations • Young 5’s • Great Start Readiness for 3-4 Year Olds • Coding Club
• 22 Credits Required for High School Diploma • Flexible Programs for Individual Needs • Certified Teachers On Site • Great Programs for Students: - Behind in Credits - Teen Parents - Poor High School Performance - Social or Emotional Issues - Drop Outs - Students Who Desire A Non-traditional Academic Environment
Middle School: • Average Class Size 25 • Full Time Counselor • High School Classes Offered: Foreign Language and Algebra 1 • Band and Choir Available • After School Tutoring Offered
High School: • Average Class Size 25 • Full Time Counselor • 3 Computer Labs • 9 Advanced Placement Classes • 21 Varsity Sports • Award Winning Band and Choir • Robotics Program • 3 Foreign Language Courses Provided • After-School Tutoring Offered • Trimester Schedule Used
• Wi-Fi in All Buildings • Free Breakfast Daily • Positive Behavior Support System Used • Interventions for Struggling Students • All Students Receive Swim Lessons in Heated Indoor Pool School of Choice Dates for
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Right Now through Aug. 29th Call 989-673-3160 for Enrollment Information or visit www.carok12.org
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A10 — Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
Prepare your deck for winter
Alex Hammac, left, and her friend Alena Riedel will sell items they’ve made from old jewelry at a garage sale Saturday to raise funds for suicide prevention. The sale takes place from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 300 Montague Ave., and a related fundraiser, a car wash, occurs during the same hours at Advance Auto Parts in Caro.
Saturday fundraisers aimed at suicide prevention as girls team up again Caro Community Schools students Alex Hammac and Alena Riedel have teamed up again to sell items fashioned from old jewelry to raise funds for suicide prevention. The girls will sell their creations at a garage sale from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at 300 Montague Ave. in Caro. That event, along with a car wash during the same hours at Advance Auto Parts, 1042 E. Caro Road, aims to end the stigma regarding suicide and mental-health treatment in Tuscola County. Freewill donations will be accepted at both events, with all proceeds going toward suicide prevention.
For more information, call 989-6700484. The girls formed Begin Again Jewelry after Chris Searles Jr., 30, of Fairgrove took his own life Oct. 21, 2017. “We wanted to stop the stigma (surrounding mental illness), so we had people donate broken or unwanted jewelry, and we either fixed it up, cleaned it or made it new,” said Alena, 12, of Tuscola County’s Wells Township and daughter of Shawn and Rachel Riedel. Alex, 12, daughter of Christina Hammac of Caro, said the girls attended a suicideprevention walk in Lansing earlier this year.
Homeowners often take steps to winterize the interior of their homes in the weeks before winter’s arrival, but such efforts should extend to the outside of a home as well. Decks make for great gathering places when the weather permits. Decks are where many people spend their free time and eat their meals come spring and summer, when the temperatures climb and the sun sets well into the evening. But as summer turns to fall, homeowners must take measures to protect their decks from potentially harsh winter weather. • Inspect the deck for problems. Decks tend to be used more often in summer than any other time of year. That makes fall and early winter an ideal time to inspect for wear and tear and any additional issues that may have cropped up throughout the summer. Damaged boards and loose handrails should be fixed before winter arrives, especially for homeowners who plan to use their decks in winter. Fixing such issues in winter and even into spring may be difficult thanks to harsh conditions, so make good use of the relatively calm autumn weather to fix any issues on the deck. • Clear the deck of potted plants. Even homeowners who intend to use their decks in winter should remove potted
plants from the deck in the fall. The home improvement experts at HGTV note that moisture can get trapped between deck boards and plastic, wood or ceramic containers in cold weather, and that can contribute to mildew, discoloration or decay. • Store unnecessary furniture. Homeowners who like to sit on their decks in winter will no doubt want to leave some furniture out over the winter. But those with lots of furniture for entertaining guests can likely move the majority of that furniture into a garage or shed for the winter. HGTV notes that doing so will prevent the potential formation of blemishes on the deck that can result from inconsistent weathering. • Remove snow, but do so carefully. Prolonged contact with snow and ice can damage a deck. As a result, homeowners should clear snow from their decks when accumulation is significant. HGTV recommends using a snow blower on the deck to avoid scarring. If a shovel must be used, push snow with the planks to reduce the risk of damaging the deck. Homeowners who take steps to protect their decks throughout the winter months can ensure these popular areas are ready once entertaining season returns in the spring.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
Lumberjacks, frogs descend on Millington
A frog eagerly waits its turn to participate in the frog-jumping contest, one of the events at last weekend’s annual Millington Old-Fashioned Summer Festival.
(Photos by John Cook)
The parking lot of Rosati’s Marketplace in Millington played host to a lumberjack competition over the weekend, part of the town’s annual Summer Festival. A frog takes a leap over the weekend at the Millington Old-Fashioned Summer Festival. The frog-jumping contest is one of the festival’s activities.
A lumberjack competition participant saws through a log at the Millington Old-Fashioned Summer Festival last weekend.
A pole-climbing contest, seen here, was part of the lumberjack competition at the weekend’s Millington OldFashioned Summer Festival.
A pair of men engage in a log rolling competition this weekend at Millington’s Old-Fashioned Summer Festival.
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A12 — Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
Continued from A1
But it made its way to prime time only after LaPratt posted a Facebook request seeking a haunted Michigan residence so his producer buddy could feature it on the newest “Ghost Brothers” series. Anna Dowe, Conrad Dowe’s sister and LaPratt’s Facebook friend, told LaPratt of the house owned by her brother – a house LaPratt had bicycled to as a teenager pondering its spookiness. After Anna Dowe replied to LaPratt’s request seeking a Michigan haunted house, he received a link to a Wikipedia page about the home. “I saw the house and I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I know exactly what this is, and it’s perfect,’” said LaPratt, son of Joe LaPratt and Debbie LaPratt. The Travel Channel describes the plot for Friday’s hourlong show thus: “Vicious spirits are terrorizing a disabled vet and his family in their historic Michigan mansion. They call on the Ghost Brothers to find out why their dream home is a dangerous nightmare, and if it can be made safe.” The new series follows Marcus Harvey,
Dalen Spratt and Juwan Mass, three selfdescribed “best friends and ghost hunters” who “embed themselves with eight different families for a weekend slumber party” that “isn’t your average sleepover.” During each weekend, the men investigate each family’s paranormal claims. Jessica Dowe told The Advertiser in 2016 that one apparition in her home – that of an elderly man – has laid claim to her. “The (ghost) said, ‘She’s mine,’ and a psychic came through here later and said the old man is referring to me,” Dowe said. Dowe said she also saw the ghost of an old man looking back at her when she looked down the stairwell leading from the home’s former servants’ quarters into the kitchen. “He was squatting down like he was looking through the (kitchen) doorway at me, and I screamed,” Dowe said. “He said ,‘Jessica’ in a very low-sounding voice.” The executive producer overseeing a 10day shoot at the Dowes’ home in April said, “we had some pretty crazy stuff go on” at the residence, adding the home’s “history is intense.” The house was completed in 1880 for Richard C. Burtis and his wife, Flora (Chubb) Burtis, and is one of the best examples in
Nick LaPratt of Los Angeles, a 1999 Vassar High School graduate, was instrumental in alerting TV producers in Los Angeles to the existence of the “Wedding Cake House,” a reportedly haunted home along Ringle Road south of M-81. The home will be the subject of the Travel Channel show “Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests” airing at 9 p.m. Friday.
(Photo from travelchannel.com)
The “Ghost Brothers” (from left), Marcus Harvey, Dalen Spratt and Juwan Mass, spent a weekend at a reportedly haunted house along Ringle Road near Watrousville in Tuscola County. Their encounters there are featured in the premiere episode of “Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests” airing at 9 p.m. Friday on the Travel Channel.
Michigan of Second Empire architecture, according to architectural historian Dale P. Wolicki. Richard Burtis was a shoemaker, postmaster and general store owner in Watrousville. His home became known as the “Wedding Cake House” because the multi-tiered exterior resembles the layers of a wedding cake, Jessica Dowe said. Watrousville, an unincorporated town now known for a church and convenience store, was a busy place in the late 1870s when workers began building the Wedding Cake House, said Conrad Dowe, a Vassar High School graduate who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. “It was until the railroad passed from Vassar to Caro,” Dowe said. “Watrousville was the central point. Everybody came through here.” Decades ago LaPratt, then about 13, occasionally visited a house along Ringle Road and would ride his bicycle from there to the former Burtis home – unoccupied at the time. Come Friday at 9 p.m., LaPratt appears briefly in the TV show about the home, depicting a historical figure, after he signed a contract with the production company creating the TV series. LaPratt believes other Vassar-area residents will appear on the show, noting production crews also visited the Vassar Area Historical Museum and Riverside Cemetery in Vassar. On prior shows on the Destination America and TLC channels, the Ghost Brothers visited some of the country’s “most haunted” destinations. LaPratt, however, said he still was “very shocked” when the new show’s executive producer told him film and sound crews were headed to the house outside of Vassar, population 2,562. “Honestly, his message wasn’t even ‘Hey, it’s a go,’” LaPratt said. “It was ‘You need to take 10 days off work; you’re working on the TV show with us.’ I thought ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ “And consider major markets. When realityTV shows do things, if you have something that is featuring Norfolk, Va., you’ve got thousands and thousands and thousands of people who have an incentive to watch that program because it’s in their town. “A very, very, tiny market like Vassar gets a season premiere of the show, which was mindblowing to me.” Many area residents pitched in to make the
Architectural historians cherish the features on this house, completed in 1880, along Ringle Road south of M-81. A drone camera recorded images in April for a TV episode about the reportedly haunted home. The show about the house airs at 9 p.m. Friday in the premiere episode of the Travel Channel series “Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests.”
show a reality. LaPratt said Dorothy (Kovacs) Watt, director of the Vassar Historical Society Museum, “was great, and integral to what went on were Pat and Randy Middlin, because anytime I needed a connection for anything, they came through.” When the production crew needed crosscut saws as props, area residents Kevin Fent, and Ron and Sherri Schiefer, came up with some. LaPratt said one of his relatives, Vassar Riverside Grill customer Deon Campbell, assisted with food delivery when the production crew ordered batches of meals from the restaurant. “Deon and a couple other people helped out, so we had four or five locals there with me helping to make sure that we could get the food in bags, and get the orders loaded in the truck so they could send me on my way and make sure the food delivery was quick,” said LaPratt, who plans to use social media to inform area residents of Friday’s show. “I do want everybody in Vassar to know that it’s going to be on TV,” LaPratt said, “because it’ll be really neat for everybody to watch.” Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at gilchrist@ tcadvertiser.com.
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Through four decades, Markel’s made the connection By Mark Haney Reporter As a wrestler, you have to be pretty flexible. And, among other things, Don Markel was a wrestler. A pretty good one, in fact. So when he saw an opening at Cass City Schools for a high school business math/social studies teacher, he went for it. It didn’t matter that Markel had majored in history and minored in physical education at Central Michigan University. “I found out very early on in my career,” Markel said, “that you have to be pretty flexible. And if you were not very flexible you were going to severely limit your horizons.” Markel never cast a limit on his own horizons. He got that job and held down a number of different positions in a 42-year career in education and high school athletics. Now he and his wife, Stacee, are facing a new test of that kind of flexibility. He’ll discover this fall what full-time life is like outside of school. For nine months out of every year since the fall of 1960, he’s been in school. This fall, the former assistant principal/athletic director and Stacee, who taught special education at Cass City, begin retirement. Like many retired couples, they plan to do some traveling. As former educators, they also plan to stay connected to young people through various volunteer activities. “Education is a connection with kids,” Markel said. “Regardless of what subject area – you have to be versed in the subject area you are teaching – but you have to make that connection. Because if you don’t make that connection, I could be the best teacher in the world and if I don’t make a connection with the kids, the kids are not going to get it.” Education made a connection with Markel at an early age. “In high school I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “I enjoyed being at school and I knew I wanted to continue that.” Growing up in Marine City, Markel played football, ran cross-country and track and wrestled in high school. Participating in two sports – football and cross-country – each fall was a challenge. “I would play a football game on Friday night,” he said, “and then go run a cross-country meet on Saturday. It was tough.” He displayed some of that toughness by running the mile and two-mile on the track
team. As a senior, he was selected Outstanding Male Athlete at Marine City. “That,” he said, “was quite an honor.” But wrestling was his best sport so when he went to CMU, he walked on to the wrestling team. “I found out early on that I wasn’t quite as good as I thought I was,” Markel said. “When I walked on to the campus at Central, I thought, ‘I am all of that.’ I found out very early on that at the collegiate level, there are a whole lot of pretty good wrestlers. So I paid my dues before I made it into the starting lineup.” When he graduated in 1977, he couldn’t find a teaching job, so he returned home. “There were a lot of history majors at that point in time,” he said. He spent a year as a permanent substitute teacher back at Marine City High School. The following year he was a permanent sub at Port Huron Northern High School. During both of those years, he also was head wrestling coach at Marine City – while still in his early 20s. “And as athletic director,” Markel said, “I think to myself that being a head coach at 21, that is pretty young.” He also served as assistant junior varsity football coach at Marine City and, during his second year, was head track coach at St. Clair, a bigger neighboring school. Then he got a full-time teaching job at Free Soil, a very small school district in Mason County. During his year at Free Soil, he was head track coach and, surprisingly, was grade 7-8 boys’ basketball coach. “My basketball background was minimal,” he said. “I played in junior high at Marine City, but I found out early on that my skillset didn’t lend itself to basketball.” Then, a year later, there was that opening in Cass City. “This position, when it first opened in Cass City, was listed as a business math teacher, with one social studies class,” Markel said. “So I took a shot in the dark, said let’s go for that social studies position. The vast majority of my first year was in business math before I moved into a social studies position.” In his nearly 30 years in the classroom, he also taught physical education, health, civics, history, geography and math. He learned how to remain flexible. “When you teach something outside of your comfort zone,” he said, “you have to do a lot of prep work. You have to stay ahead of the kids. So that is what I did.” As a coach in Cass City, he stayed in familiar territory – football, wrestling and boys’ track. He has coached 57 varsity teams – nine football, 12 track and 36 wrestling – in the years since his hiring and has coached varsity sports longer than any other coach in school history. “They are different,” said Markel, inducted in 2017 in the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame. “Obviously, my first passion is wrestling.
Long-time Cass City coach Don Markel, 62, pictured at the 2017 Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame induction ceremony and banquet at Central Michigan University, retired at the end of the 2019 school year. So I would have to say probably that was my favorite. But football was pretty close behind that. And track and field after that. “When you are coaching football you are right there, observing everything. When you are coaching wrestling, it is the same thing. You are right there, observing everything. In track and field, you say sprinters, here’s your workout; middle distance, here’s your workout; distance runners, here’s your workout; and, by the way, when you are done here’s your field event workout. So everyone disperses and I can go rotate around.” He stayed in the classroom for nearly 30 years even though a variety of people urged him to consider administration. “I wasn’t quite sure I would like it,” he said. “So I decided I’d give it a try toward the back half of my career.” Then if he didn’t like it, he said, he always could just retire. So he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Saginaw Valley State University in 2005 and a year later was hired as assistant high school/junior high principal and athletic director. Then for two years he was middle school principal/athletic director before the district closed that school. He then resumed being assistant principal/athletic director. When he came back, however, he was athletic director and assistant principal for both the junior high/high school and the elementary school. “I had to learn the elementary stuff,” Markel said. “I was familiar, having been on the high school staff for 30 years, with what worked with high school kids. What works with high school kids does not work with elementary school kids. A 5-year-old doesn’t have the reasoning capacity a senior has.” The big insight he picked up in his 12 years as athletic director was that not everyone coached the same. “I used to always assume everybody did things the same way I did,” Markel said. “I found out very early on that everybody has their
own unique way of handling things. So where I, as a coach, did things one way, someone else did it some other way. “The other challenge was that sometimes it is a balance between the coach, the athlete and the parents. You have to support your coaches even though sometimes you think to yourself, in the back of your mind, that it could have been handled differently.” The prevalence of social media, he said, also has changed things. “Now you get a lot more feedback,” he said. “I am one that often times I would get emails, or text messages, and sometimes when you respond in the written word, some of the meaning is lost. So what I always tried to do, if I got an email, rather than responding to it and possibly being misinterpreted, I would pick up the phone and call the parent. Or I’d bring the athlete into my office, or the coach into my office.” That way, he said, he could see if his words were having the desired effect, if he was making that connection. While Markel no longer is teaching, he isn’t completely retired. He’s coaching one more year of wrestling in part because his son, Drew, will be a senior on the team. He and Stacee asked their son how the team was feeling about this. And his son said the seniors would like him to coach them through their final year. But once Drew’s class graduates, Markel will step aside and Adam Dorland, one of Markel’s former athletes, is ready to take over. “He could take over right now and do an excellent job with it,” Markel said. Markel said he may get into officiating now that his time in school is over. After all, he’s been involved with athletics in one form or another just about all of his life. He’s not about to give it all up now. “It is an extension of the classroom,” he said. “You make that connection with the kids.” And that connection won’t be broken anytime soon.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
B10 — Wednesday, August 14, 2019, The Advertiser
Intensive blood pressure control may slow age-related brain damage NIH-funded imaging study shows link between blood pressure and white matter lesions. www . nih . gov
In a nationwide study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of hundreds of participants in the National Institutes of Health’s Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) and found that intensively controlling a person’s blood pressure was more effective at slowing the accumulation of white matter lesions than standard treatment of high blood pressure. The results complement a previous study published by the same research group which showed that intensive treatment significantly lowered the chances that participants developed mild cognitive impairment. “These initial results support a growing body of evidence suggesting that controlling blood pressure may not only reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease but also of age-related cognitive loss,” said Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., director of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). “I strongly urge people to know your blood pressure and discuss with your doctors how to optimize control. It may be a key to your future brain health.” Brain white matter is made up of billions of thin nerve fibers, called axons, that connect the neurons with each other. The fibers are covered by myelin, a white fatty coating that protects axons from injury and speeds the flow of electrical signals. White matter lesions, which appear bright white on MRI scans, represent an increase in water content and reflect a variety of changes deep inside the brain, including the thinning of myelin, increased glial cell reactions to injury, leaky brain blood vessels, or multiple strokes. These changes are associated with high blood pressure, or “hypertension”. As described on the NIH’s Mind Your Risks website, several studies have suggested that people who have hypertension have a greater chance of accumulating white matter lesions and also of experiencing cognitive disorders and dementia later in life. These observations were tested in a “gold standard” randomized clinical trial, called SPRINT Memory and Cognition in Decreased Hypertension (MIND), which
examined whether controlling blood pressure levels could prevent or slow white matter lesion progression and aging brain disorders. The results were published on Aug. 13, 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “These findings on white matter lesions - primarily in the aggressive control of blood pressure - are encouraging as we continue to advance the science of understanding and addressing the complexities of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and related dementias,” said Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA). Launched in 2010, the NIH-supported SPRINT effort initially enabled scientists to compare the effects of standard versus intensive blood pressure control on cardiovascular health and mortality. More than 9,300 adults who were at least 50 years old and had a high risk for cardiovascular disease received either standard treatment, which lowered systolic blood pressure, the first of two numbers measured during an exam, to less than 140 mm Hg (<140 mm Hg), or intensive treatment to lower the same pressure reading below 120 mm Hg (<120 mm Hg). In August 2015, NIH surprisingly ended the trial early after initial results showed that 3.3 years of intensive treatment significantly reduced the rates of death and cardiovascular disease. The NIA and NINDS supported sub-study, SPRINT MIND, enabled scientists from 27 clinical sites to examine the effects these treatments had on the brain by measuring cognitive function and acquiring MRI scans on a subset of SPRINT participants. The researchers compared brain scans of 449 participants that were taken at enrollment and four years later. During this time, the average increase in total volume of white
matter lesions on scans of the intensive treatment group was 0.92 cm3, which was less than the 1.45 cm3 seen on scans from the standard treatment participants. “Intensive treatment significantly reduced white matter lesion accumulation in people who had a higher chance of experiencing this kind of damage because they had high blood pressure,” said Clinton B. Wright, M.S., M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Research at NINDS, and an author of the study. The SPRINT MIND researchers also reported slightly more loss of brain volume in the intensive treated group than those in the standard treatment. The effect was seen predominantly in males. However, the authors noted this loss was generally very small and of unclear clinical significance. “SPRINT MIND has produced promising initial results in the battle against the nation’s growing problem with aging brain disorders. Both the brain scans and the cognitive tests reinforce the potential benefits that intensive blood pressure management may have on the brain,” said Lenore J. Launer, Ph.D., a senior investigator in the NIA Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences and co-author of the paper. “We hope that these findings will become the foundation for future studies on how to protect the brain throughout a person’s life.” In the future, SPRINT MIND researchers plan to look at how controlling blood pressure may affect the accumulation of white matter lesions in critical regions of the brain affected by aging brain disorders and what factors may make some people more responsive to treatment.
Smoldering spots in the brain may signal severe MS NIH study provides hope for diagnosing and testing effectiveness of new treatments for more disabling forms of multiple sclerosis. www . nih . gov
Aided by a high-powered brain scanner and a 3D printer, NIH researchers peered inside the brains of hundreds of multiple sclerosis patients and found that dark rimmed spots representing ongoing, “smoldering” inflammation, called chronic active lesions, may be a hallmark of more aggressive and disabling forms of the disease. “We found that it is possible to use brain scans to detect which patients are highly susceptible to the more aggressive forms of multiple sclerosis. The more chronic active lesions a patient has the greater the chances they will experience this type of MS,” said Daniel S. Reich, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the senior author of the paper published in JAMA Neurology. “We hope these results will help test the effectiveness of new therapies for this form of MS and reduce the suffering patients experience.” Affecting more than 2 million people worldwide, multiple sclerosis is a disease for which there is no cure. The disease starts when the immune system attacks myelin, a protective
coating that forms around nerve cells in a person’s brain and spinal cord, to produce a variety of initial symptoms, including blurred or double vision, problems with muscle strength, balance and coordination, and abnormal sensations. Treatment with antiinflammatory medications designed to quiet the immune system has helped some patients fully or partially recover. Nevertheless, a significant subset of patients will eventually suffer from a longer lasting, progressive form of the disease, which can cause further problems including paralysis, loss of bladder control and problems with attention, thinking, and memory. Doctors often use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose patients as the immune system’s attack produces lesions that appear as spots on scans of patients’ brains. While some of the lesions heal, completely or partially, other lesions remain and rimmed ones appear to actively expand, or “smolder”, for many years. Nevertheless, until recently, researchers did not fully understand the role chronic active lesions play in the disease, in part, because it was difficult to find the ones that remain chronically inflamed. Starting in 2013, Dr. Reich’s team showed that by using a high-powered, 7-tesla MRI scanner, they could
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accurately identify damaging, chronic active lesions by their darkened outer rims, in agreement with previous studies. “Figuring out how to spot chronic active lesions was a big step and we could not have done it without the highpowered MRI scanner provided by the NIH. It allowed us to then explore how MS lesions evolved and whether they played a role in progressive MS,” said Martina Absinta, M.D., Ph.D., the postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Reich’s lab who performed these studies. To do this, the team scanned the brains of 192 multiple sclerosis patients who had entered a trial at the NIH’s Clinical Center. They found that, regardless of the treatment they were receiving, 56 percent of the patients had at least one rimmed lesion. Further analysis showed that 44 percent of patients had only rimless lesions; 34 percent had one to three rimmed lesions; and 22 percent had four or more rimmed lesions. They then compared the brain scans to the neurological examinations the patients received upon enrollment. Patients who had four or more rimmed lesions were 1.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with progressive MS than those without rimmed lesions. Moreover, these patients developed motor and cognitive disabilities at a younger age than the patients who had no rimmed lesions. When the researchers analyzed key parts of the patients’ brains, they found that patients who had four or more rimmed lesions had less white matter and smaller basal ganglia than those who had no rimmed lesions. “Our results point the way towards using specialized brain scans to predict who is at risk of developing progressive MS,” said Dr. Reich. The team then analyzed a subset of patients whose brains had been scanned once every year for 10 years or longer. Their results suggested that, while the rimless lesions generally shrank, the rimmed lesions either grew or stayed the same size and were particularly damaged. Finally, the team used a 3D printer to compare the spots they had seen on scans to the lesions they observed in
brain tissue samples autopsied from a patient who had passed away during the trial. They found that all expanding rimmed spots seen on the scans had the telltale features of chronic active lesions when examined under a microscope. “Our results support the idea that chronic active lesions are very damaging to the brain,” said Dr. Reich. “We need to attack these lesions as early as possible. The fact that these lesions are present in patients who are receiving anti-inflammatory drugs that quiet the body’s immune system also suggests that the field of MS research may want to focus on new treatments that target the brain’s unique immune system – especially a type of brain cell called microglia. At the NIH, we are actively seeking patients who want to participate in studies like these.” In a previous article, Dr. Reich’s team openly shared instructions for programming lower powered MRI scanners, found at most clinics, to detect rimmed chronic active lesions. They hope researchers around the world will use the instructions to develop and monitor better diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for MS patients. These studies were supported by NINDS’ Intramural Research Program, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.