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Race officials will offer at least $115,000 to the winner of the 2016 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that race officials announced the purse on Friday. Last year's purse was $127,110, including $12,110 left over from the 2014 race. Fundraisers and sponsorships help fill out the purse. The announcement from race officials came the day before in-person signups for the 1,000-mile sled dog race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Yukon. The Yukon Quest is scheduled to being on February 6, 2016, in Fairbanks. Officials also say Doug Grilliot of Willow will be the race marshal for the fourth year in a row. The head veterinarian will be Cristina Hansen and the race manager will be Alex Olesen.

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Nearly a dozen people were displaced in the Russian Jack area early Sunday, after Anchorage firefighters say their trailer home was destroyed in a fast-moving fire. Anchorage Fire Department dispatcher say fire crews were called to the home, in the Totem Trailer Court on the 700 block of Klevin Street, just after midnight Sunday. Capt. Joe Cizk, with AFD’s Station 3, said smoke and flames were coming out of the home as first responders arrived. Although no injuries were ultimately reported, more than a dozen units were ultimately dispatched due to concern about residents possibly still inside. “Our initial dispatch in the station, we were told there were some children,” Cizk said. “First reports said there was one and then two, then it was an unknown amount of children inside the structure -- so we automatically dispatched more units and ambulances.” According to Cizk, the cause of the fire was tracked to cooking in the kitchen. “Reports by witnesses stated there was a pot of hot oil on the stove and they put some food in it to cook and it caught the kitchen on fire,” Cizk said. “(There) might be some salvageable stuff inside, but it's pretty much a total loss.” Firefighters said a total of 11 people were displaced by the fire. Channel 2’s Samantha Angaiak, George Ilutsik and Scotty Smith contributed information to this story.

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ANCHORAGE -- A pair of XtraTuf boots from the Petersburg harbormaster, framed photos of historic Valdez and of King Harald V of Norway, a preserved king crab from a legendary aviator: these are a few of the 27 things Gov. Bill Walker has reported receiving as gifts during his first eight months in office. The governor also lists in documents provided to Channel 2 following public records request gift from ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil: a free flight from each that enabled tours of the oil giants' North Slope facilities. Overall, the value of items he has received is $9,149. "Everyone receives gifts throughout their tenure," Walker said in a Saturday interview in his Anchorage office. "There's nothing unique about that." Katie Marquette, a spokeswoman for Walker, said in a Sunday message to Channel 2 that weather concerns forced him to accept the oil companies' flights. "The governor took the flights after the plane he was scheduled to fly on was weathered out from each location, and so he didn't have to cancel his tours of each company's facilities," Marquette wrote. While it is certainly true that Alaska governors have routinely accepted gifts from individuals and organizations, a couple gifts to Walker and his lieutenant governor, Byron Mallott, recently became a point of controversy. During a visit by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to Kotzebue, the Barrow Whaling Captains Association presented Walker and Mallott with bearded seal vests the association valued at $1,750 apiece. However, it later became clear that the vests were purchased by the North Slope Borough for twice that much. "It's a delicate issue, because there was certainly no wrongdoing on our part," Walker said, speaking directly about the issue for the first time. "We had two choices: retain them and do a modified (Alaska Public Offices Commission) filing on the disclosure. "But on the other hand we felt that it was just in the abundance of caution to return them." The governor said a reason he and Mallott often accept gifts is because the tradition of gift-giving is an important part of many Native cultures. In particular, Walker said he recalls one moment when that was apparent. While he was still on the campaign trail in Bethel, as he and wife, Donna, were leaving a dinner, someone chased after his car. "I looked at Donna and said, 'Did we forget something?'" Walker said. "They were giving a couple jars of jelly, and it would've been a huge insult if they had not given us something as we left." The advocacy organization, Alaska Public Interest Research Group, agrees that cultural tendencies to give gifts explain many of the items received by the first-term governor -- not some sort of hidden attempt to sway policy decisions. "Of course we believe that any gift that an elected official receives should be easily accessible public information in case that were to ever be a conflict," said Jessie Peterson, the group's executive director. Alaska law requires gifts from a government and anything worth $150 or more to be reported, and those reports are subject to public records laws. There is no limit on the value of a gift that a public official may receive. The governor's office completed a request for gift records within a few days of being asked for the information. Even with a process that requires approval from an ethics supervisor within the executive branch and a tendency to report items well bellow the threshold to require a fee, Walker said there is a difficult balance between acting respectful when someone offers two jars of jelly, or anything else of roughly similar value, and when something could be construed as a conflict of interest.

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A pilot made an emergency landing on the Dalton Highway on Friday.

Alaska State Troopers said Sunday that responders from the Coldfoot Post responded near Mile 90 of the highway.

Troopers said the pilot, 28-year-old Wasilla resident Jeremy Rogers, was flying his 1958 Cessna 180 from Nenana to Coldfoot when wildfire smoke prompted the landing on the roadway.

Rogers and his four passengers were not injured, but troopers said the tail of the plane sustained minor damage while attempting to move it out of the roadway to a pullout.

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UPDATE: Alaska State Troopers Spokesperson Beth Ipsen told Channel 2 News that the man accused of vandalizing the Soldotna trooper post Friday, has been identified as 68-year-old Ralph Imholte of Soldotna. 

Troopers also confirmed that alcohol was a factor in the incident. 

ORIGINAL STORY: Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna say they didn’t have to go far to arrest a suspect in a recent vandalism case, after he allegedly damaged the front door of their post Friday afternoon. Troopers said in a Friday dispatch that the incident took place outside the post, at 46333 Kalifornsky Beach Rd., just after 3 p.m. Friday. “(A)n unidentified white male threw two hand-sized rocks at the Soldotna AST front entrance, breaking the double pane glass of one of the front doors,” troopers wrote. “The male sat down on a parking barrier in the parking lot and was contacted shortly afterwards by troopers who had been in the building during the incident.  The male refused to identify himself and no identification was found on his person.” The man was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital for a medical evaluation, where he allegedly resisted attempts by emergency-room staff to assess him. He was subsequently taken to the Wildwood Pretrial Facility, where he was held on charges of third-degree criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. AST spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said the responding troopers were off-shift Saturday and couldn’t immediately answer questions about the man’s identity, or whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident.

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Sutton residents are receiving some good news Saturday night. The Matanuska River has receded and people are making their way back to their homes, after being forced out by rising flood waters. Mat-Su Emergency Services director Casey Cook said water levels are getting back to normal. Cook said residents had until Friday to submit applications for the borough to buy properties threatened by the river. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is still planning on road work to protect the Glenn Highway from the river. Officials say water levels could rise again, or the river could change course. DOTPF officials said the department is keeping an eye on the river this weekend, since warm temperatures could cause additional glacial runoff. The department’s road work should start on Monday.

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The Anchorage Fire Department is looking for information on who may have started a playground fire at an Eagle River elementary school Saturday morning. ASD spokeswoman Heidi Embley said by email Saturday morning that the fire occurred at Alpenglow Elementary School, at 19201 Driftwood Bay Dr. “We are blocking off the area and will do more cleanup/removal on Monday,” Embley wrote.

Anchorage Fire Department spokesman John See said in a statement Saturday afternoon that firefighters were called to the school shortly after 8:30 a.m.

"Upon arrival, AFD units found a portion of the playground at Alpenglow Elementary School engulfed in flames from what appears to be an intentionally set early morning fire," See wrote. "AFD crews from Station 11 quickly extinguished the fire. There were no injuries reported and no damage estimate has been given, however, the playground equipment suffered significant damage."

The district has traditionally offered free summer parking space to volunteers who camp outside schools to deter vandalism, but there wasn't anyone doing so at Alpenglow Saturday.

"About a third of the structure including a slide and stairway was damaged -- melted to the ground and steel structure compromised," Embley wrote. "The school did not have a camper host on site." Although there wasn't word on the exact cause of the fire, Embley told Channel 2 the incident was inherently suspicious. "Playgrounds don't set themselves on fire," Embley said.

Brian Leigh, a firefighter with AFD's Station 11, said that the materials used in the playground -- wood and rubber -- are more prone to burn, but represent a trade-off between physical and fire safety.

"Although the wood and the rubber's probably a lot more flammable, it is also safer for the average day-to-day, with kids jumping around and falling on them versus the gravel or rock base," Leigh said.

In early June, ASD said that four teens from ages 13 to 15 were suspected of starting a fire that destroyed the playground at Taku Elementary School. According to Embley, the blaze did tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Anyone with information on the cause of the fire or those responsible should call AFD's Arson Hot Line at 267-5060, or contact Crime Stoppers at either 561-STOP or its website. Channel 2's Samantha Angaiak contributed information to this story.

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The only methadone clinic in the Mat-Su Valley is preparing to close its doors in less than 30 days.

A current patient, who asked not to be identified by Channel 2, said on Friday the biggest concern from the Wasilla-based Zipperer Medical Group methadone clinic's perspective is what happens to patients who aren't ready to stop treatment within 30 days.

"This is the longest I've stayed clean this time because I had another option that actually worked," the patient said.

In the Mat-Su Valley, ZMG is a major source of healing for those struggling with addictions like heroin.

"Heroin use and drug addiction in general is an epidemic in the Valley," the patient said. The patient said treatment is conducted by clinic workers who distribute small doses of methadone, "tapering off" the drug given to patients over a period of one to three years.

The patient said workers' biggest fear for others is that they'll relapse with no feasible resources for help.

"What happens to all those people when they can't go to Anchorage?" the patient said. "They'll go back to the same lifestyle that they were in, before and that sucks."

ZMG's Dr. John Zipperer Jr. said several employees quit within a month's time, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioned them about the clinic's practices. Without enough staff to operate, Zipperer said he had no choice but to close.

"When I lost that staff, basically I have a nurse and me and that's it," Zipperer said. "I made the decision to close because it wasn't enough manpower."

Channel 2 contacted the FBI, but they were unable to answer questions Friday afternoon.

Jennifer Stukey, the chief operations officer for the Narcotic Drug Treatment Center,  said it and another clinic -- Advanced Treatment Systems -- offer options in Anchorage for patients once ZMG's methadone clinic closes.

"We are prepared for that they would have to go on a waiting list," Stukey said. "I have been speaking with (ATS), to see if we can make sure that we try to take care of these patients that are going to be without medication in 30 days."

Stukey said it could be months before those added to the current wait list of 13 patients can access treatment.

"I have, now, about a three to six-month wait for them," Stukey said.

Stukey said the Narcotic Drug Treatment Center faced a delay in a grant of $837,000 per year.

On Friday Stukey said money would be in place on Monday allowing the center to stay open.

The funding allows the center to treat up to 100 patients, Stukey said.

In a written statement, Randall Burns, with the state Department of Health and Social Services' Division of Behavioral Health, said the state has provided grant funding to two non-profit opioid treatment programs for many years.

"Until last year only two OTPs had been operating in the entire state:  one non-profit in Anchorage (the Narcotic Drug Treatment Center, NDTC) and one in Fairbanks (Project Special Delivery, owned and operated by the Interior Aids Association)," the statement said.

For now, it's a growing problem with no simple solutions, at least for the immediate future.

Randall Burns' full statement on methadone clinic funding is as follows:

The State of Alaska has provided grant funding to two non-profit Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) for many years.   Until last year only two OTPs had been operating in the entire state:  one non-profit in Anchorage (the Narcotic Drug Treatment Center, NDTC) and one in Fairbanks (Project Special Delivery, owned and operated by the Interior Aids Association).   Last year (June, 2014), two for-profit OTPs opened for business in Alaska: ZMG Clinic in Wasilla, owned and operated by Dr. John Zipperer, and Anchorage Treatment Solutions (ATS), owned and operated by a company with a chain of OTPs in practically every state (CRC Health).  The Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) welcomed the entry of the two new OTPs into Alaska because it meant additional access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) for persons with opioid addictions.   Unfortunately, Dr. Zipperer just informed the State on July 27th that he intended to close his OTP within 30 days.  He stated in his letter that “During this 30 day period we will continue to work with our clients providing assistance, where appropriate providing tapering doses and help them to identify other programs that can continue their care.”   We are aware that the ZMG Clinic has referred clients to both Anchorage OTP programs: NDTC and ATS.   We regret the closure of the Wasilla OTP because we know it provided access to Valley residents to medication assisted treatment, but all OTPs are private companies whose operational decisions are their own.

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An appeals court has reversed a man's drug conviction after determining an Anchorage police officer improperly searched his car. During a 2007 traffic stop, Kyle Adrian Rogers was briefly detained in a patrol car after an officer confirmed Rogers had a suspended license and no insurance. A second officer, who had seen Rogers moving his hands toward the console and passenger side of his car, searched Rogers' vehicle. Court documents say the second officer, William Geiger, assumed the car would be impounded and decided to begin what he characterized as an inventory search. He found cocaine in the partially opened console. Rogers was convicted on a drug misconduct charge. In reversing the conviction, the Court of Appeals found Geiger's actions suggested an evidence search, not a cataloguing of valuables.

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A Palmer man was injured Friday when his all-terrain vehicle was struck by a car on the Old Glenn Highway, according to Alaska State Troopers. Troopers responded to the collision involving 21-year-old Cole Archibald, at Mile 12 of the Old Glenn, at about 10:30 a.m. according to a Saturday trooper dispatch. Neither Archibald nor the driver of the 2009 Toyota station wagon that hit him, 29-year-old Palmer resident Laurel Carlsen, were cited in the crash. “Investigation revealed (Archibald) had failed to stop prior to attempting crossing the Old Glenn Highway,” troopers wrote. “(Carlsen) was southbound on the Old Glenn and attempted to avoid the ATV as it entered the highway. The collision caused Archibald to be thrown from his ATV onto the vehicle then to the road surface.” Medics took Archibald, who wasn’t wearing a helmet or other protective gear, to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. The collision occurred the day after another crash involving an ATV, in the Wasilla/Big Lake area at the Parks Highway’s intersection with South Johnson Way. Mat-Su Valley emergency responders said a child riding an ATV suffered only minor injuries after colliding with a semi truck, in an impact which sent the child flying into a ditch.

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Alaska State Troopers have seized marijuana with an estimated street value of $32,000 from a home outside Nome. Troopers say they served a search warrant Thursday and found 21 mature marijuana plants, six immature starter plants, a pound of "bud" marijuana and various growing equipment. Troopers say the plants were in the possession of two Nome residents released from custody from previous arrests. The conditions of their release called for them to not possess controlled substances. Troopers forwarded charges of drugs misconduct and violating conditions of release to the Nome district attorney.

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ANCHORAGE -- Police say a woman last seen Wednesday near Muldoon has been found and is safe.

According to a brief statement from APD Saturday, Soldotna police were able to speak with 25-year-old Danielle McCall Friday evening.

APD said earlier Friday that McCall had been last seen July 29 at 11 a.m. in East Anchorage, asking anyone who saw her or the pickup truck she was driving to call police.

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An Alaska appeals court has affirmed the conviction of an Anchorage woman whom prosecutors said used a videotape of herself punishing her son to try to get on "The Dr. Phil Show." Jessica Beagley in 2011 was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse for punishing her adopted Russian son by putting hot sauce into his mouth. She received probation and a suspended jail sentence.

... In her appeal, she argued, among other things, that the wording of the ordinance she was prosecuted under was vague. The Court of Appeals acknowledged potential problems with what constitutes "reasonable parental discipline" under the ordinance. But judges say jurors weren't asked to decide if Beagley used unreasonable discipline but whether she even engaged in discipline or mistreated her son as a ploy to get on TV.

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ANCHORAGE -- The Seward Highway has reopened after a crash involving a tour bus and five other vehicles Friday, which killed an Anchorage man and injured multiple people involved in the wreck.

Anchorage Police Department dispatchers said as of 11:15 p.m. Friday that the highway is now open. Southbound traffic was reportedly being given priority over northbound traffic, however.

Late Friday, Alaska State Troopers identified John Zollner III, 55 of Anchorage, as the deceased victim of the crash that has shuttered Seward Highway for several hours.

The road closure was initially expected to last six hours but was extended to approximately 10 to 11 p.m., "depending on the time it takes to clear the vehicles in the accident," state Department of Transportation officials wrote in a release.

According to troopers, a bus operated by tourism company The Park Connection was driving north on the highway a moment after noon when it struck another northbound vehicle that stopped to wait for cars turning into the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Portage.

"That crash resulted in a multi-car crash which included the tour bus and five other occupied vehicles, two of which were towing trailers," troopers wrote in a dispatch.

LifeMed helicopters took to people to an Anchorage hospital to be treated for "serious injuries," and others were taken by ambulances for less serious injuries.

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There were 42 passengers on board, mainly independent travelers from hotels who were going from Seward to Anchorage, the company said in an email to Channel 2 News. People were picked up from the small boat harbor and Seward Windsong Lodge around 10:45 a.m., and the plan was to arrive in Anchorage at 1:30 p.m.

Two passengers who were in the front right seat were taken to a hospital by ambulance, Thompson said, one receiving treatment for shock and both being treated for muscle soreness and minor cuts; the driver also sustained minor injuries.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved in the tragic incident which occurred on the Seward Highway at Mile 80 today," Steve Judd, president of The Park Connection, wrote in an email. "We are very appreciative of the quick response from the Alaska State Troopers and EMT’s assisting those involved."

Zollner's next-of-kin were on scene, but details about other victims have no been released. Neither were details about the make and models of vehicles involved.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspectors are assisting with the investigation, troopers wrote in a release.

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Please check KTUU.com and watch Channel 2 News for updates to this developing story. A crew is on scene and will provide updates throughout the evening.

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ANCHORAGE -- Even with a diminished state budget, growth will be the focus of the upcoming school year, Anchorage School District superintendent Ed Graff said at his annual state of the schools address.

"We always have to be learning and growing," Graff said. "That's the only way we're going to improve things."

At the West High School meeting attended by many teachers, he laid out a strategic plan for the coming school year with four main points: focus on students, invest in staff, engage the community and strengthen our services.  

One service Graff highlighted was the school based health centers that Begich and Clark Middle Schools provide. He says this goes beyond the scope of a school nurse. Kids can receive treatment for acute illnesses, injuries, and get immunized and receive physicals.

Graff says that type of "out of the box" service lends to healthier kids who attend school more regularly. 

"When students are in school we can help them succeed but they need to attend regularly," said Graff.

Graff says the district has improved graduation rates from high school by nearly 20-percent in the past decade. The latest numbers aren't finalized but show a high school graduation rate of 78% which is up from 73.5% the school year prior.

Graff also talked about destination 2020 which outlines 6 goals.

- 90% graduation rate,

-students with individual attendance of 90%

-90% of students proficient in language arts and math

-90% of parents will recommend their school

-100% of students and staff will be safe

-100% of department will rank in top quartile for operational efficiency 

Hundreds of teachers, principals and ASD staff attended the State of the Schools Address. Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe was the keynote speaker. 

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Some western Alaska Natives can travel back and forth to a Russian region without a visa under a 1989 agreement that was recently revived. Vera Metcalf, a Native leader who works part time with the State Department, said Friday that the program allows indigenous residents from both sides of the Bering Strait to visit for up to 90 days without the documentation. Alaska and Chukotka Natives have historically been linked to the Chukotka region, and many are still related. Metcalf says administrative issues had forced those Alaska Natives to get a visa over the past three years. She says the issues have been resolved, allowing the program to begin again in mid-July. She declined to elaborate. Metcalf says those on the Russian side haven't needed a visa under the program.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with Alaska's North Slope Borough over alleged hazardous waste violations. EPA officials said Thursday the borough stored more than 45,000 pounds of hazardous waste in Barrow without a storage permit required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Officials say the borough also failed to perform at least five hazardous waste determinations at the site. The EPA says the violations occurred between 2012 and 2014. Officials say the waste included antifreeze contaminated with benzene, corrosive solvents and other materials. The waste has been removed. EPA spokeswoman Judy Smith says the borough has 30 days to pay a penalty of more than $445,000 as part of the agreement reached earlier this month. Acting North Slope Borough attorney Teresa Bowen did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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Police say a state-issued credit card, reported missing from a state worker's desk, was used to withdraw $500 from a Juneau bank last month. Police say they have identified a person of interest with help from the public after circulating photos from an ATM camera. They say the state employee had kept the card in her desk with a note providing the access code. The card was reported missing June 30, after the woman was asked about the withdrawal made June 19. State Department of Administration spokesman Andy Mills says that was the lone fraudulent charge on the card, which has been canceled. Mills says the state has been refunded $503, including a $3 fee, by US Bank, which issued the card. US Bank also has opened a fraud investigation.

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Anchorage police are asking the public for any information on a fatal hit-and-run collision in Mountain View early Friday morning. According to an APD statement, police responded just after 1:30 a.m. to Mountain View Drive’s intersection with North Park Street after receiving reports of a woman lying in the road. “Upon arrival police found 39-year-old Claudia Kuzakin who appeared to be a victim of a hit-and-run,” police wrote. “Kuzakin was transported to a local hospital where she was declared deceased a few moments later.” APD spokeswoman Renee Oistad said Friday that police don’t have descriptions of either the vehicle or the driver who hit Kuzakin. Anyone with information on the collision should call APD at 786-8900, or contact Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP or via its website.

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The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office says it made one arrest during an effort by protesters to block a Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker from leaving Portland for an Arctic drilling operation. Lt. Harry Smith says 19-year-old Christian Pence refused to leave the Willamette River after being told the waterway was closed Thursday afternoon, and then assaulted a deputy who tried to remove him from the water. He faces charges of resisting arrest, interfering with a police officer and assaulting a public safety officer. Portland police also reported one arrest, a 24-year-old man accused of criminal trespass. The icebreaker Fennica made its way to the Pacific Ocean after authorities forced the demonstrators from the river and the St. Johns Bridge.

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