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Update: Now-former Axmen player arrested after threatening to kill multiple people
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KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Axmen postponed games Monday and Tuesday after now-former player Matthew T. Taylor, 21, threatened to “kill multiple people,” according to the Kingsport Police Department.

Taylor, a pitcher, played college baseball in 2021 for Kansas, where he appeared in four games as a relief pitcher. He graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 2018.

Prior to Taylor’s arrest being confirmed by police, Axmen officials had said only that a member had been removed from the Appalachian League team for “conduct of concern and violations of team rules.”

Chris Allen, Boyd Sports president and COO, issued this statement when asked for comment:

“A player has been removed from the team for conduct of concern and violations of team rules. As we continue to evaluate the facts of the matter, we have postponed the game and will keep our fans informed.”

Axmen General Manager Steve Brice, when asked for comment, issued the same statement.

Later Tuesday evening, the Kingsport Police Department released the following:

• On July 12 at approximately 12:30 p.m., Kingsport Police Patrol Officers were called to Hunter Wright Stadium, 800 Granby Road, to stand by while team management dismissed a Kingsport Axmen baseball player, Matthew T. Taylor, from the team and banned him from the premises.

• Taylor was allowed to collect his personal belongings and then left the facility without incident.

• About an hour and a half later, police were called back to the stadium in reference to threats made by Taylor.

• Investigation by KPD officers and detectives revealed that Mr. Taylor had sent messages, via a social media application, in which he had threatened to kill multiple people at the Kingsport Axmen game scheduled for Monday evening.

• “Taylor’s actions naturally resulted in people being placed in reasonable fear of serious injury or death and the game scheduled for that evening, and ultimately the game scheduled for the following evening, being canceled by team management out of an abundance of caution.”

• Monday afternoon, Taylor was arrested at his residence in Sullivan County, taken to the Kingsport Justice Center, and charged with false reporting (Class C Felony) and harassment. Taylor was processed and confined in the Kingsport City Jail, and released on $25,000 bond.

• This remains an active investigation by the KPD Criminal Investigations Division; therefore, no additional information can or will be released at this time. Any inquiries regarding the Kingsport Axmen baseball team should be directed to that organization.

The team had announced the postponement of Tuesday’s scheduled game at Hunter Wright Stadium on its social media channels, saying it was “due to a player personnel issue.”

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Commenters on the public site questioned the situation, saying they were told by security at the gate that the game was canceled due to “a credible threat.”

Kingsport police officers were at the stadium entrance Tuesday at what would have been game time, when Times News reporters were on the scene.

This is a developing story. Please check timesnews.net for updates.


Family
centerpiece
TVA event promotes South Holston trout fishing

BRISTOL, Tenn. — The South Holston River’s tailwaters are known around the country for trout fishing.

Keeping that reputation takes a lot of work, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, which manages the reservoir system of which the South Holston is a part, takes it seriously.

The TVA put on an event Tuesday at the weir dam below South Holston Dam, bringing together several agencies and organizations with the same goal — preserving and promoting areas like the South Holston.

“Stewardship is one of TVA’s main missions,” said Dennis Baxter, an aquatic zoologist who manages river and reservoir compliance for TVA. “Basically to preserve an area like this and enhance it so we can have a fabulous trout fishery out here.

“If you come to the South Holston, more than likely you’re going to catch fish because the TVA provided a better habitat, which is better water quality, better areas for the fish, better areas for the fishermen.”

That was the theme of the day. Tuesday’s get-together was one of six similar events the TVA will hold around the Tennessee River Valley area.

“It’s just a reminder to stay together, keep working together,” Baxter said. “These events … you get a chance to go fishing. That’s the lure, if you will. They help us get together and we can reinforce our relationships that we have. We work with each other, but we need to reinforce that every so often.

“We want people to realize what all of our state and federal partners have been doing to make these places better. We’ve got state parks, which are fantastic. You’ve got the federal properties. You’ve got the natural areas with the TVA and the state.”

LASTING RELATIONSHIPS

Mike Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, was one of several people at the event. His group celebrated its 75th anniversary earlier this year.

“Our relationship with TVA goes back decades,” Butler said. “They manage 293,000 acres of public land and 11,000 miles of shoreline, and their responsibility around the environment and around natural resources is that engine that drives all this outdoor recreation and tourism that we’re talking about today.

“Our belief is if you maintain a healthy and abundant natural resource base, tourism and recreation will sustain forever.”

HOW POPULAR?

Dave Matthews, an aquatic zoologist with the TVA, told a story when talking about the economic impact fly fishing brings into the local economies.

“I traveled to Boulder, Colorado, two years ago and stopped in at a fly shop,” he said. “The owner asked where I was from, and when I said East Tennessee, the first thing out of his mouth was ‘How’s the South Holston fishing?’ It’s that well known.

“A friend of mine was in upstate New York fishing. They heard he was from Tennessee and that person asked about the South Holston.”

IN THE WATER

Fly fishing instructors were on hand to teach the ins and outs of the sport to newcomers, and guides took first-time fishermen into the water.

Plenty of people waded in to see what it was all about. Included in that group was U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, who did not catch a fish during her time in the river.

“Didn’t see any, didn’t catch any, but you know what? That means I’ve got to come back,” Harshbarger said. “TVA’s done a lot for this area, and we live in the best area in the country. I’ve told people this is the best district, especially in Tennessee, but in the whole country. I have to let people know that every time I get to talk to them in D.C. that we’ve got a wonderful place to come and fish. We’ve got it all in East Tennessee.”

The fishing equipment for Tuesday’s event was provided by Trout Unlimited.

“They’re great partners, especially with TVA because we don’t own 300 pairs of waders and they do,” Baxter said. “They brought 22 fly rods out here today. They have several events throughout the year, and we try to support them as much as we can, and they’re here to support us. All I had to do is ask, ‘Hey guys, can you come help us? We’re here.’ ”

Editor’s note: Two related stories — one on commerce and tourism and a second on how officials test the health of the waters and fish — will appear on Sunday’s Outdoor page in the Kingsport Times News.


Education
Watch now: Two new city BOE members take oaths, some educators getting more pay

KINGSPORT — New Kingsport Board of Education members Melissa Woods and Brandon Fletcher took oaths of office at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Afterward, the five-member board got down to business by approving unexpected pay increases for some school system employees for the new school year.

The good news for some teachers was the fix for an accidental doubling of bond repayment money of more than $300,000 in the 2021-22 budget. The board corrected that and instead directed the money toward more quickly increasing pay some teachers are due on the new pay plan.

Instead of advancing one-fourth the amount on the scale for 2021-22, the found money will fund teacher pay to half the amount on the scale.

It won’t affect all teachers, only some of those hired during a single-lane pay plan the school system used. Among other things, the system was weighted toward rewarding teachers for having higher student test scores. It was used for a few years before going back to a more traditional one last school year.

Woods and Fletcher, as has become customary for new school board and Board of Mayor and Aldermen members, received prints of Church Circle from Mayor Pat Shull after Deputy City Recorder Angie Marshall administered the oath of office to each as their families stood by them.

CLOSING THE PAY SCALE GAP

Chief Financial Officer David Frye said Budget Amendment No. 1, approved 5-0 by the board Tuesday night, included a $99,000 increase in the Basic Education Program fund per an updated Tennessee estimate of the amount.

The amendment also included getting rid of one of two $204,900 debt service amounts accidentally put in the 2021-22 budget, money that goes to buying more space in the Press Building, where the Administrative Support Center is housed.

Frye said that extra $303,900, along with money already in the budget for teacher step gap increases, allows the school system to close the gaps in the step increases, based on longevity and advanced degree. That is what he recommended and what the board did, closing the gap for affected teachers by half instead of one-fourth.

The original plan was to close the gap over four years. This action would reduce that to three years, assuming 25% increases the two fiscal years following this one.

The board also approved using $2,976,123 in Energy Efficient Schools Initiative (EESI) money, borrowed over 16 years at half a percent, for capital projects including LED lighting throughout the school system via Energy Systems Group.

Agenda items tabled

The board also voted to table two consent agenda items after they were placed on the regular agenda at the request of member Todd Golden and Vice President Julie Byers.

One, requested by Golden, was delaying approval of the Projected Annual School Board Agenda for 2021-22, proposed by President Jim Welch so the board’s schedule could be amended to accommodate the work schedule of Fletcher.

The matter will be discussed at the July 27 work session and voted on at the Aug. 10 regular meeting.

The other, requested by Byers, was delaying approval of making the Dobyns-Bennett Wind Symphony an honors course.

Byers said she wanted to know if not doing a research paper or composing music would simply make it a regular credit instead of a weighted honors credit or if it would affect the letter grade.

Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said he wanted to confer with his staff before answering that question, which will be addressed at the work session.

IN OTHER ACTION

The board also approved new $40-per-year band fees at middle schools and agreements with Frontier Health and Camelot Care Centers totaling $389,000 combined for school counselors, with five counselors for $209,000 from Frontier and 10 counselors for $180,000 from Camelot, which bills health insurance.


Local-news
featured
Sullivan delinquent tax auction planned for September

BLOUNTVILLE — If you’re interested in buying land at what might seem like a good price, Sullivan County has more than 100 parcels up for bid. The parcels have all landed on the list after failing to attract a minimum bid during one or more public auctions.

They are often very small, irregularly shaped, sometimes landlocked, and buyers might still have to pay past-due city tax bills. In some cases, it’s a challenge to get a clear deed, which in turn can severely limit use of the property.

Earlier this week, the Sullivan County Delinquent Tax Committee accepted bids on two such pieces of property. Potential action on the parcels was advertised in the Times News, as required by law.

The committee voted to accept the following:

• $50 from Mary Tilly, 825 Williams St. Extension, Bristol, for a landlocked lot described as “North of Williams Street Extension,” that adjoins Tilly’s address. The property assessor’s market value on the lot: $5,300. The county has owned the property since March 2003, when no one bid the amount owed in delinquent taxes: $785.82.

• $400 from Nodaway River Land and Cattle, of Marianna, Florida, for a parcel on Canton Road with the owner listed as “unknown,” and a delinquent tax bill of $5,538 (no taxes paid since 2001). The property assessor’s market value on the vacant lot: $10,400.

In the past, Sullivan County usually held a yearly delinquent tax sale for the properties with past due taxes. This year there will be two. The next one is scheduled for September.

By law, a complete list of those properties will be advertised in the newspaper in advance.

The auctions are attempts to clear the county’s delinquent tax roll. When those auctions take place, the minimum bid is equal to the amount of past due taxes. If no one bids the minimum, the county bids that amount.

Owners of properties sold for back taxes have up to one year after the parcel is auctioned to “redeem” their ownership by paying the past- due tax bill and fees. The purchaser in those cases gets a refund.

But parcels with no buyers and no owner coming forward eventually end up on the “available for bid list,” and when they are sold there is no redemption period.


Ellie Carpenter works hard on one of the hot air balloons on her trash barrel.


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