Alli Friedman

KCFW Reporter

POSTED: 7:38 AM Aug 06 2014   UPDATED: 2:05 PM Jul 02 2014
alli

Alli Friedman is a reporter for KCFW in Kalispell. She was born and raised in southern California, and is excited to be living in northwest Montana.

Alli earned her BFA in Television and Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University in Orange County, CA. 

While in school, she interned for NBC LA, KTLA-TV, and PBS SoCal. 

When Alli isn't in the newsroom, she loves to travel, work out, watch hockey and hang out with friends and family.

Being new to Montana, Alli is excited to adventure and explore the outdoors. 

If you have any questions, comments, concerns or story ideas please contact Alli by email.

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Whitefish city hall to become LEED certified

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 3:37 PM Dec 20 2014   UPDATED: 10:45 PM Dec 21 2014

Whitefish city hall to become LEED certified

KALISPELL, Mont. -

Whitefish city councilors voted this month to make their new city hall “LEED” certified.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system for the construction, operation and maintenance of the building.

It will tack on thousands of dollars to the project, but councilors say the upfront costs for green building standards will pay off in the long run.

“We have probably three façade designs. We’re pretty much settled in on what the interior space designations will look like,” said council member, Richard Hildner.

Plans for the new Whitefish City Hall is down to a few designs. Each is distinct, but what they will share is LEED certification.

“We would be the first LEED building in Whitefish and that’s kind of an exciting proposition,” Hildner said.

Hildner says the decision to use green building standards and apply for LEED designation wasn’t an easy one to make. It will add several thousand dollars to the cost of the multi-million dollar project. But, he says the value that’s added is worth it.

“LEED means that it will be a healthy, environmentally friendly place to work,” Hildner said.

Technology will be energy efficient and re-purposed materials will be used to build the new city hall.

“We will start seeing cost returns in about 10 years. So, the overall cost of operation will be reduced over time and so we’ll be able to pay for that in a fairly short order,” Hildner said.

Whatever design is chosen, Hildner hopes the “going green” will catch on.

“I think there’s also a sense of pride city-wide that says we have a building that we can be showing to the public what we think is important,” said Hildner.

A new city hall has been in the talks since 1987.

City council members will vote on the final design for the new city hall, at the next city council meeting on January 5th, 2015.

Whitefish mother dies in fatal crash

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 1:16 PM Dec 20 2014   UPDATED: 2:09 PM Dec 20 2014
Man dies after fatal Norris Road crash
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Two children were injured and their mother was killed Friday night in a car accident near Columbia Falls, according to the Flathead County Sheriff's Department.

Officials say 27-year-old Astrid Vang from Whitefish was driving a Chevy Trailblazer, traveling westbound on Hodgson Road around 7:45 p.m, when her vehicle hit ice and rolled.

We're told Vang was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. She was transported to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, but died from her injuries.

Officials say her two children, a 7-year-old male and a 5-year-old female, were both wearing safety restraints, and were transported to KRMC with minor injuries.

MHP troopers say road conditions were wet and icy. It is not clear if alcohol or speed was a factor.

The crash is still under investigation.

Obama signs Montana land management bills into law

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 5:44 PM Dec 19 2014   UPDATED: 8:07 PM Dec 19 2014

Obama signs Montana land management bills into law

KALISPELL, Mont. -

President Obama signed into law a package of land management bills that had big support from Montana legislators.

Montana Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh were in the Flathead to celebrate.

Walsh, Tester and Rep. Steve Daines teamed up to support the bills.

One of those bills is the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. It will protect more than 300,000 acres of land from mining and drilling along the North Fork near Glacier National Park.

“It started with a collaborative group here, and we were able to use the energy out of this collaboration and support for the North Fork Protection Act to get it passed. It’s a special day because folks have been working on this since the '70s, maybe even before, and we finally got it done,” said Tester.

This bill comes just a few years after British Columbia pledged to protect lands north of the border.

The passing of the legislation received support from local stakeholders. They say it will mean a boost for the local economy.

“This bill will help boost our tourism economy here in Kalispell and northwest Montana,” said Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President Joe Unterreiner.

Unterreiner says it’s the beauty of Glacier National Park that draws a crowd to northwest Montana. Now that the surrounding area has been protected from development, he says it could mean more tourists, and more jobs.

"The thing we see is that tourism is a precursor for other kinds of economic activity. A lot of the reasons people relocate here and invest here and bring jobs here, is because of all the same reasons we want to be here," Unterreiner said.

The passing of this bill has also opened thousands of acres of land for timber harvest.

“As a lumber company, we would like to secure a sustainable, consistent volume of timber to run our mill,” said Vice President of F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Chuck Roady.

Roady isn’t sure the new legislation will create more jobs in his industry, but he says it will keep existing jobs safe.

"It would sure add a lot of security to the people we have that work there, and to secure the timber that comes there," Roady said.

In addition to benefiting the economy, we’re told it’s also for the people who live here -- to enjoy the beauty Glacier and the North Fork has to offer.

“We live here for the same reason, because we like it. We enjoy our natural resources. Whether it’s hunting, fishing, hiking, we live here for the same reason as everybody else," Roady said.

"People will come into the visitor center on one day looking for vacation information and a week later they come in on their way out looking for real estate information," Unterreiner said.

Local supporters say the legislation is a great example of what can happen when Montana representatives from both sides work together.

“It’s the first step towards achieving management of more lands and an active management across Montana," Roady said.

The North Fork Watershed Protection Act is part of a bigger bill called the National Defense Authorization Act. That included around 70 land management bills, all now signed into law.

Professional baseball team coming to Whitefish

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 5:32 PM Dec 18 2014   UPDATED: 8:32 PM Dec 18 2014

Professional baseball team coming to Whitefish

KALISPELL, Mont. -

The City of Whitefish is getting a professional baseball team. The team will be called the Glacier Grizzlies and will be part of the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League (MRPBL).

The team will play at Memorial Park in Whitefish.

In a few months league owners hope seats will be filled with fans and the field will be ready for a pro ball game.

Even though the other teams in the league are in Washington and Oregon, the owner of the league thinks Whitefish is a perfect fit.

“I was trying to keep the transportation costs down. But I saw Whitefish and I saw that Whitefish has a nice park, it’s a good baseball community, and it’s the right size. All the teams basically have a city size of around 30,000. It’s big enough to support a team,” said league owner Mike Greene.

The Grizzlies will share Memorial Park with the Glacier Twins American Legion team. Members of the Glacier Twins say they are thrilled to share the field with the pros.

“We will run clinics together and they’ll get out and meet the youngsters, sign autographs and things like that,” said Grizzlies General Manager Bob Lockman.

Whitefish residents say they are excited to attend games and think it will bring in a lot more people to town.

“We’ll have players in here that have their mornings and basically their afternoons free. So I would expect the golf courses, the bowling alleys get a lot of business,” Lockman said.

“There’s a lot of stuff for players to do. I don’t know what hotel we’re going to use yet, but there’s options. There’s a lot of restaurants and it would be a good place for people to visit,” Greene said.

So far 17 of 24 players have been signed. Most of them either played four years in college or were once a part of another pro league.

“We got into this less than a week now, and it’s a lot of work. I know a lot of funds have to be raised, but I think we can make a go of it,” Lockman said.

That leaves nearly five months for the work to get done before the snow clears.

Season tickets are already on sale on the MRPBL website.

New evidence emerges in murder case 17 years later

SANDERS COUNTY

POSTED: 5:55 PM Dec 17 2014   UPDATED: 8:59 PM Dec 17 2014

New evidence emerges in murder case 17 years later

KALISPELL, Mont. -

It’s been nearly 17 years since a Trout Creek man was convicted of murdering his best friend. Since then, Richard Raugust insists he didn't do it.

Now the Montana Innocence Project says there’s new evidence and Raugust deserves a new trial.

The murder happened in 1997 when Raugust and two friends, Rory Ross and Joe Tash, were out drinking. Court documents say that after 2 a.m. the three of them went to Raugust’s trailer to continue partying.

An argument erupted and Tash was shot and killed that night. Ross claims he saw Raugust pull the trigger.

A three-day hearing started and new evidence was presented in the hopes of getting Raugust a re-trial.

Raugust has been serving a life sentence for homicide, but he says he didn’t do it. He wrote to the Montana Innocence Project for help in 2009.

“With Richard, we started reviewing his case in 2011 and starting investigating it, found new evidence, and we are his attorney for this case,” said Executive Director of the Montana Innocence Project Keegan Flaherty.

Raugust has stuck by his alibi for 17 years.

“Richard has always stated that he got out of the car and went to Rick Scarborough’s [a friend of Raugust] house and slept on the floor that night because he had to get up early for work. So it didn’t make sense for him to go to the campsite that night,” Flaherty said.

At the first day of the hearing, a retired Sanders County sheriff’s deputy, Wayne Abbey, took the stand. Abbey claims he saw Ross’ car stop that night, indicating that someone may have gotten out and not gone to the murder site.

Prosecutors argued that it would have been extremely difficult to see that.

The Innocence Project also called other witnesses.

“Randy Fisher is another witness that was threatened by Rory Ross, and he has evidence,” Flaherty said.

Fisher claims that during an argument, Ross pulled a knife on him and said, “I can do you like I did that guy,” and “I could gut you right now for snitching.”

“We have Dan Yarmey who is an ear-witness expert. Richard was convicted because some people said that they heard him in the woods that night. (Yarmey) is an expert that’s going to show it’s nearly impossible to hear, to be able to call someone out 100 yards through the woods,” Flaherty said.

Prosecutors argue they got the right guy the first time around.

After hearing all the presented evidence, the judge will decide whether Raugust should get a new trial.

“Our hope is that the full story is heard and we believe that this evidence shows that Richard could not have been at the campsite at the night Joe Tash was murdered,” Flaherty said.

Ross, the man who claimed to witness the murder, was asked to take the stand but he pleaded the Fifth Amendment and was not questioned.

The hearing is expected to last until Friday, then the judge will decide if there’s enough evidence for a re-trial.

FVCC surgical technology students to use Google Glass

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 6:53 PM Dec 16 2014   UPDATED: 11:48 PM Dec 16 2014

FVCC surgical technology students to use Google Glass

KALISPELL, Mont. -

Flathead Valley Community College is adding a new piece of technology into the curriculum.

Surgical technology students will soon be using Google Glass to record themselves during simulated operations.

Scalpels and forceps are among the tools of the trade for surgical technology students at FVCC. But now they’re adding something new to the curriculum -- Google Glass. It’s used for more than just helping them see.

"It's basically a wearable computer you can surf the internet from it, you can record what you're looking at and take pictures, you can recover files," said Rob Blackston, surgical technology program director.

The students will wear them during simulated operations as a new learning technique.

"I recognized a need for the students to be able to critique themselves in the laboratory setting before they go into the hospital. They'll be able to get that first-person view of what they’re doing and record it so that they can see exactly what they’re doing and either fix their mistakes or do it a different way,” Blackston said.

Blackston says Google Glass is especially useful for people in an operating room.

"Because of the confines of our sterile technique, being gowned and gloved, Google Glass works so well because it's hands-free and wearable. You can use it with voice commands," he said.

When you wear the Google Glass it looks like a small computer screen that appears in the top right of your vision field. Some worry this could be distracting for people who are operating. Blackston disagrees.

"I think because of the intensity of surgery and the intensity of the clinical skills that they're practicing, more than anything it’s not going to be a distraction," Blackston said.

That’s why some think the device will soon be added to the list of tools that appear in operating rooms, in the near future.

The Flathead Valley Community College Foundation gave a grant to the surgical technology program to purchase two pairs of Google Glass. Students will start using them this spring.

Flathead Co. says not liable for mailboxes damaged during plowing

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 4:29 PM Dec 13 2014
 Flathead Co. says not liable for mailboxes damaged during plowing
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Several Flathead County residents have sent complaints to the county about their mailboxes getting damaged by snow plows.

But, the county responded saying that that’s the price homeowners have to pay if they want safe roads.

The Flathead County Road and Bridge Department says mailboxes are considered an encroachment on the county’s right-of-way.

This means landowners are responsible for any damage a plow does to a mailbox. This could be from a plow physically hitting the mailbox or the weight of the snow, that’s being plowed, pushes the mailbox over.

However, this is not new. The county passed a resolution in 1994 saying they are not liable to replace a mailbox that was damaged during county road maintenance.

They say safety is their number one concern, not mailboxes.

County officials say there are ways to prevent your mailbox from getting ruined.

“If they [the homeowner] move it back three feet from the surface road, if they move it back and make it strong enough to withstand some of that snow load, it would be good for them and it would help us out too,” said Flathead County Road and Bridge Supervisor, Ovila Byrd.

The county says the damage usually happens over time from continued force of the snow on mailboxes that loosen it from the post.

Genetic change in flu virus could make vaccine less effective

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 5:18 PM Dec 12 2014   UPDATED: 11:24 PM Dec 12 2014

Genetic change in flu virus could make vaccine less effective

KALISPELL, Mont. -

New details about this year’s flu vaccine tell us it may not be as effective as previously thought.

That’s because of a change in one of the components in the vaccine has genetically drifted.

"What’s gone on this year that's a little atypical is the strain that they put in the influenza vaccine, one of the “A” strains has drifted genetically a little bit," said Flathead County Health Official, Joe Russell.

Flathead County chose to give a quadrivalent, or four-in-one type of shot this year to residents.

It’s made up of two influenza A strains and two B strains. Some of those A strains have genetically changed.

“With this drift, the vaccine that we have right now may not be as effective,” Russell said.

What’s happening is people are getting sick with an A strain, the one they’ve been vaccinated with. Through lab analysis, health officials are finding out that the A strain people are infected with is the same one in the vaccine.

Russell explains that the A strains, rather than the B strains, are the most important component in the vaccine.

“B is not as virulent, they don’t make you as sick. A strains are the ones that most people get sick from,” he said.

But, there is still a possibility you may never get infected with the genetically drifted flu virus.

"We don't know in Flathead County or in Northwest Montana that we won’t see the H3N2 strain that's totally protected in the vaccine. We won’t know," Russell said.

That’s why Russell and other health officials urge everyone to get vaccinated despite this genetic drift.

“We want people to get vaccinated. We don't want people to think that just because there’s been some drift in one of the four or one of the three strains, to not to get vaccinated," Russell said.

A Flathead nonprofit understands the importance of getting vaccinated. That’s why United Way and Family Wize is partnering with Walgreens to give away 1,000 free flu shot vouchers.

The vouchers are for people or families who are uninsured or who cannot afford the shot.

"Access to health care is a critical issue for all people in our community and especially those who are struggling financially. So anything we can do to help reduce their costs and help them be healthier during the winter time is really important," said Sherry Stevens of United Way.

The flu virus changes every year and that’s why vaccines change. But, health officials say it’s too late in the game to change this year’s vaccine.

Flathead wood shop students recycle sawdust in unique way

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 4:57 PM Dec 11 2014   UPDATED: 11:23 PM Dec 11 2014

Flathead wood shop students recycle sawdust in unique way

KALISPELL, Mont. -

Instead of filling up the trash with sawdust scraps and sending it to the landfill, students in Flathead High School’s wood shop class are using it to recycle.

"We kept filling up the garbage with all this waste," said Brock Anderson, FHS wood shop teacher.

So instead of sending it to the landfill, Anderson did some research on what he can do with the leftovers.

"That's how we came across the ‘pelletizer,’" Anderson said.

It’s a machine that turns the sawdust into pellets. Wood pellets are used in wood stoves as a primary source of heat.

Here’s how it works -- students mix leftover sawdust with water and recycled oil, which came from a Kalispell restaurant. They mix it and test the moisture in the pellets, then put it through the "pelletizer."

“If they're too dry they'll crumble and if they’re too wet, they'll crumble. So we just need to make sure they're profitable and we’re not just selling cheap wood pellets," said FHS wood shop student Zephrey Holloway.

The class plans to sell the pellets, $4 for a 40-pound bag.

"It’s a cool process because we can make money off it, and we can get quite a few pellets done in a day throughout all the class periods," Holloway said.

In fact, the pelletizer can produce 40 pounds of pellets in just minutes. But it’s not easy.

"It’s a lot of work. I went into it a little bit blind. There’s a lot of work into it, the recipes for making the optimum pellets," Anderson said.

To make the best pellets, Anderson says it’s the little things that matter. For example, how fast or slowly you feed the sawdust into the pelletizer.

“You can’t go too fast because the pellets are not as tight. If you feed it a little bit slower they compact well,” Anderson said.

Anderson also noted that all the hard work is worth it to teach his students something more than just how to cut wood.

"I think it’s great for the students to see that we're not just a consumable society. We're actually using the tree all the way from the bark, making projects, all the way down to something someone can use to heat their homes with," he said.

It’s not just the wood shop students who are learning from the project. Business students are handling the marketing. Art students are designing the bags for the pellets and the foreign language students are translating the product information into Spanish.

All the money that is raised from selling the bags of pellets will benefit various school programs.

Community wonders what's next as CFAC halts talks with DEQ

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 10:54 PM Dec 11 2014
CFAC BUILDING
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Nearly 50 community members gathered Thursday in a Columbia Falls auditorium to get answers. 

News that the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company decided to cut off negotiations with the state over how to clean up environmental waste at the site came as a shock to many. 

Representatives from the state Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA gave presentations on what the next steps are in the testing and cleaning process of the site. 

They mentioned that there are known contaminates at the site, but further testing needs to be done. 

Now that the company has cut ties with the DEQ, the EPA has a new plan -- to add the site to the national priorities list. 

Community members voiced their concerns about how time consuming that process may be. 

"I think people are most concerned about the timeline and the DEQ initially offered up the ability for the state to proceed with negotiations in the hopes of moving this process along a little bit quicker.  Because negotiations were ceased, we're now kind of black to plan A which, is an NPL listing, so it may take a little bit longer," said Jeni Flatow, with the Montana DEQ.

In order to put the site on the national priorities list the EPA will first need to get the governor on board.

Storage unit thefts on the rise in Flathead

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 5:38 PM Dec 10 2014   UPDATED: 6:55 PM Dec 10 2014
Storage unit thefts on the rise in the Flathead
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Law enforcement officials in the Flathead have been called out to a string of storage unit thefts over the past few days.

Several units were broken into in the Bigfork area this week, but they’re not alone.

NBC Montana found out that storage unit break-ins happen throughout the county more often this time of year. That may be because storage units aren’t checked as frequently. They’re also a common place for people to store Christmas gifts.

But there are ways to protect yourself.

“The best way is to get a bigger lock than everyone else and check your storage unit often, especially if they have a security camera system, because if you don’t check it for a year and then you come back and your lock has been cut, with a different lock on it, they can’t go back that far,” said East Evergreen Storage Manager Mike Kilmer.

Kilmer also says having surveillance cameras and locking gates around the storage unit can also prevent these types of break-ins.

Speech & debate tournament needs more judges

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 5:24 PM Dec 10 2014   UPDATED: 6:52 PM Dec 10 2014
Speech and debate tournament needs a few hundred judges
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Nearly 600 students will compete this weekend in one of the largest speech and debate tournaments in the Western Division. It’s so big, that both Glacier and Flathead High School will be the hosts.

Students from 17 different high schools, including ones from Missoula, Helena and Kalispell will compete in speech and debate events.

There is one problem -- the event is short judges.

Right now, the tournament has between 400 and 500 judges signed up, but may need a few hundred more to match last year’s meet that had 700 judges.

“Usually we host this tournament in November and we always have tons of judges so it’s not that difficult. This year -- and I think it’s because it’s before the holiday season -- we’re struggling more to get judges. We have kids who have asked like 20 people and two have said yes,” said Flathead High Speech & Debate Coach Shannon O’Donnell.

O’Donnell also says a lot of people avoid judging because they don’t think they are qualified or have fear of making a wrong decision.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a judge should contact Kyla Niva at Flathead High School.

Blizzard-like conditions leave Flathead Co. residents without power

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 1:31 PM Nov 29 2014   UPDATED: 6:19 PM Nov 29 2014
Blizzard-like conditions leave Flathead Co. residents without power
KALISPELL, Mont. -

1,514 residences were without power at 6:15 p.m. Saturday night as crews from the Flathead Electric Co-op continue to repair storm damage to power lines.

You can get the latest information on when power will be restored by clicking here.

***

The Thanksgiving holiday brought mild temperatures for residents in the Flathead, with temperatures in the 40s.

But, in just 24 hours Flathead County residents woke up to a huge change in weather.

Strong winds and single digit temperatures created blizzard-like conditions.

The winds also downed several power lines in the Columbia Falls and West Glacier area, leaving thousands without power for hours.

Crews are working to get the power restored in that area.

About 7-12 inches of new snow has been reported making the roads very icy and slick. There was also limited visibility for drivers earlier this morning.

“The roads are slick and its slicker underneath. The cars were frozen this morning so we had a hard time getting the doors open because it changed from fall like temperatures to the freezing. I think it’s probably very dangerous to get out there now but everyone’s taking care of the roads and we have to trust our road department people," said resident, Jule Mason.

Flathead County is also under an avalanche advisory. If you do choose to ski today, you are encouraged to avoid steep slopes and pay close attention to the terrain around you.

Wish tree to provide Christmas gifts for veterans

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 4:00 PM Nov 29 2014
Wish tree to provide Christmas gifts for veterans
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Holiday season is in full swing and people in the Flathead have the chance to buy a gift for a veteran.

A “wish tree” is set up at the Kalispell Center Mall. It is decorated with a tag for each resident who lives at the Montana Veteran’s Home in Columbia Falls.

On the back of the tag is a description of what that resident wants or needs.

Once an item listed on the tree is purchased, the tag is removed.

The wrapped gifts will be collected on a daily basis and transported to the veteran’s home.

“You know it’s important that we recognize those people and the service that they gave for this country. Some of the guys at the veteran’s home are still pretty sharp and some of them are not, but they all deserve a good Christmas,” said Montana Veteran’s Home volunteer, Sue Haverfield.

Gifts will be collected until December 22nd, 2014.

Small Business Saturday encourages Flathead Co. residents to shop local

FLATHEAD COUNTY

POSTED: 3:41 PM Nov 29 2014
Small Business Saturday encourages Flathead Co. residents to shop local
KALISPELL, Mont. -

The Black Friday sales at big retail chains have passed. But, today is about the sales at local businesses.

Small Business Saturday aims to encourage people to do their holiday shopping locally.

This year marks the second year for participating businesses in Kalispell, and more than 60 businesses are signed up.

Most of those businesses are retailers, others are restaurants. Some of them are even giving discounts to common shoppers.

The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce is offering incentives to shop. If you spend money at three different participating businesses, you can be entered to win a gift card. All of which is to promote shopping small this Saturday.

“This day really celebrates small business owners and owner and operator businesses that are so great in forming the wealth of our community. They’re a great source of employment and just have a big impact on the community. It’s a fun way to celebrate it,” said Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President, Joe Unterreiner.

The national event is a partnership with American Express, which was founded back in 2010.