A1 A1
Kingsport man charged with crashing RCAM gate, torching SUV

KINGSPORT — A 33-year-old Kingsport man has been charged with vandalism and vehicle theft after allegedly stealing an SUV from a downtown parking lot last week, driving it through a gate and then setting it on fire.

The incident began around 6 p.m. Friday when the Kingsport Police Department received a call about a man driving a Ford Explorer through the gate at a Northeast State Community College facility (Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing) on Main Street and then setting the vehicle on fire.

A Northeast State officer told Kingsport police he had to use a fire extinguisher on the vehicle and that the suspect fled the scene on foot. The SUV was stolen from the Family Dollar not 20 minutes earlier, according to the incident report.

The owner of the SUV was located, and she took possession of her vehicle.

About an hour later, central dispatch received a call about a suspicious man on Eastman’s property near Wilcox Drive, attempting to open car doors. Police said the suspect matched the description of the man who stole the SUV.

Kingsport police located the man near Sullivan and Market streets and identified him as Nathan Bledsoe. During questioning, Bledsoe was hesitant to answer any questions, but when asked why he stole the SUV and set it on fire, he replied “I’m training to be like you.”

Bledsoe also allegedly told officers he drove through the gate at the RCAM “to mark the spot.”

Kingsport police charged Bledsoe with vandalism over $1,000 and theft of a motor vehicle. Eastman officials informed Bledsoe he was banned from all Eastman property. The Northeast State officer reportedly told Kingsport police they would be charging Bledsoe with vandalism and setting fire to the SUV, according to the incident report.

Bledsoe was booked into the Kingsport City Jail and then released on an $8,000 bond.

West Ridge statue made from scrap metal from former high schools

BLOUNTVILLE — Pieces from former high schools literally have become part of the wolf welcoming visitors to the campus of Sullivan County’s newest school.

A metal sculpture of a wolf, created from scrap metal from Sullivan South, Central and North high schools by students of the old South High, stands guard in the roundabout at the new West Ridge High School.

West Ridge, which has Wolves as it mascot, is the first new high school since Sullivan North and South opened in 1980. The school is located off Exit 63 of Interstate 81 at 380 Lynn Road.

West Ridge Principal Josh Davis and Assistant Principal Josh Smith, along with Charlie Hubbard, maintenance and custodian supervisor for Sullivan County Schools and a former career technical education teacher, said the sculpture was created in the spring and summer before the school opened and was put in place a few weeks after it opened on Aug. 9.

Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said the sculpture was installed after soil was placed in that area.

“It was worked on primarily by Gage Durham in welding class at Sullivan South High School last year as a project for the new school,” Davis said.

“Metal pieces were from all three of the high schools, North, South and Central,” he said.

According to folks in the career technical education section of West Ridge, the other students who worked on the sculpture included Tripp Barnes, Adam Bays, Tristan Fox and at least two more. Former South welding instructor Adam Houser helped oversee the project, they said.

Try the Kingsport Times News app today. Download here from Google Play and the App Store.

Northam blasts unvaccinated for spike in Virginia’s COVID-19 hospitalizations

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam placed the blame Monday for Virginia’s rising COVID-19 hospitalizations on people who refuse to get vaccinated.

Pointing to 1,997 new COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Monday, “Almost every one of these is a person who declined to get a shot,” Northam said during a press conference in Richmond.

“I don’t know what to say to people who selfishly choose not to get vaccinated,” Northam said, noting that hospitalized cases had dropped to fewer than 100 a day between a holiday season peak in January and the latest spike’s start in June with the spread of the Delta mutation of the disease.

Vaccine refusals and the associated strain on hospital resources also means persons with other serious medical conditions are finding it difficult to get necessary care, Northam said.

“You are costing everyone a lot of money,” Northam said, referring to about $5 billion in costs to treat unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. “I hope you will give some thought to what your family will do without you.”

Despite the increase in COVID-19 hospital cases, Northam said Virginia has seen 80.1% of Virginia adults receiving at least one COVID vaccination and 60% of the population fully vaccinated. That places Virginia at the top of southern states in vaccinations and 14th in the U.S.

Northam cited vaccination rates in urban versus rural areas of the state, with Arlington County and the city of Alexandria having one-shot vaccination rates above 90% compared to a 17% rate in Highland and Patrick counties in the western and southern areas of Virginia.

Northam said he did not want to see similar urban-rural trends as Virginia awaits approval of vaccines for children 18 and younger and booster shots. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for booster shots for four groups: age 65 and older, persons with underlying medical conditions, first responders and persons with compromised immune systems.

Vaccination rates for children 12-18 are close to the statewide rates for one dose and full vaccination, and Northam said he hopes to see those improve. Vaccines could be approved for children 5-12 as soon as six weeks, he said, and Virginia health officials have been planning to make shots available at in-school clinics as soon as vaccines become available.

“If you want to see this pandemic end, if you want to see your kids in school every day and not quarantined at home and you want high school football games and a return to a time when you didn’t have to worry about this, there’s only one answer,” Northam said. “Get vaccinated. It’s the only way forward.”

Allie Phillips, population health manager with the LENOWISCO Health District, said Monday that district vaccinators will start offering Pfizer vaccine booster doses under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to the four group that have had their Pfizer vaccinations:

• People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings at least 6 months after their Pfizer vaccines.

• People aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions at least 6 months after their vaccinations.

• People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions at least 6 months after their vaccinations, based on their individual benefits and risks.

• People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting at least 6 months after their vaccinations, based on their individual benefits and risks.

“Our No. 1 priority is to be able to readily provide all individuals within our community with COVID-19 vaccines,” said Phillips “We are thankful for our many partnering pharmacies and health care facilities who are also providing COVID-19 vaccines. This allows individuals to have the flexibility of obtaining a vaccine or booster from any COVID-19 vaccine provider and not just the original site where they received their initial series.”

The COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness decreases slowly at six months, Phillips said, but people still have strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death. It’s recommended that the booster dose is given six months or more after the second shot. Individuals who do not receive a booster will still be considered fully vaccinated. Anyone with questions or concerns about booster eligibility should call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA, their local health department or their local health care provider.

The Lenowisco Health District will be offering the Pfizer booster doses in their local health department offices. Please call your local health department to schedule a Pfizer booster dose appointment.

• Lee County Health Department — (276) 346-0401.

• Scott County Health Department — (276) 328-8000.

• Wise County and City of Norton Health Department — (276) 386-1312.

Vaccine providers can also be found at www.vdh.virginia.gov/cumberland-plateau/appointments/ and www.vdh.virginia.gov/lenowisco/appointments/.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccination, visit online at www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine. For specific information regarding vaccination in the Lenowisco Health District visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lenowisco/.

KPD looking to hire 10 new officers

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Police Department is looking to hire 10 police officers, and if you’re interested in applying, you have until Sunday to do so.

Applications are now being accepted and must be submitted online at the following link: www.governmentjob.com/careers/kingsport.

You must submit a new application whether you’ve applied or tested with the department in the past.

“Currently, all professions are struggling with recruiting and retaining quality personnel. This problem is not limited to law enforcement, and the Kingsport Police Department is certainly no exception,” said Tom Patton, public information officer for the KPD. “We will do our best to fill any existing and upcoming vacancies as quickly as possible, but under no circumstances will we lower our standards or shortcut the vetting process in order to do so.”


All applicants must be a U.S. citizen and either already be 21 or turning 21 by no later than April 19, 2022.

Following the Oct. 3 deadline, all applicants will receive a confirmation email, as well as a letter by traditional mail, containing further instructions regarding the upcoming Police Applicant Testing procedures, as well as the exact date that you are to report for testing.

There will not be a written exam as part of this testing process.

All applicants will begin with a physical agility evaluation on Oct. 19. These sessions will take place at Domtar Park (1414 Riverport Road). This evaluation will include a timed one-mile run and a timed quarter-mile obstacle course designed to measure fitness, strength, agility, endurance and perseverance.

If you pass the physical agility evaluation, you’ll be reviewed for eligibility and suitability to move forward to the interview panel phase.

Applicants with the highest combined scores on the physical agility evaluation and interview panel will then be interviewed by the chief of police to determine the final selections. Those ultimately selected will also be subject to a medical examination, psychological evaluation and a thorough background investigation prior to actual hiring.

The current starting salary for police officer trainee is $16.98 per hour or $35,318 annually. If you’re already a certified law enforcement officer, you may be eligible for a salary adjustment to compensate for prior experience.

For additional information, call the city’s human resources department at (423) 229-9401. For information on a career in law enforcement, call the department’s Professional Standards Unit at (423) 229-9433.

Volunteer senior Jon Wes Lovelace won his third consecutive regional title — and qualified for a fourth straight state tournament — with an even-par 71 on Monday at Link Hills Country Club.