News Cast for November 23rd:

It looks like we’ll be waiting until next year to find out what legal proceedings await an Okeechobee woman accused of several charges in connection with an attack from her pet spider monkey last spring. The case against 56 year old Tina Darlene Ballard has been scheduled for a possible change of plea hearing in January. Ballard is charged with maintaining captive wildlife in a neglectful manner and culpable negligence causing harm when her spider monkey named Spanky attacked a Home Depot employee on June 4th. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says the reason for the possible change in plea is because Ballard’s attorney has withdrawn and been replaced by Regional Conflict Counsel. Ballard, who missed two bond hearings after she fled the area last summer, was picked up in July at a North Carolina county jail after she had been incarcerated on a fugitive warrant and brought back to Okeechobee County. That added a tampering with evidence charge which is her most serious offense.

Representatives of Orlando-based Avcon, a planning and engineering firm, spoke with Okeechobee County Commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday regarding a plan for future development for the county airport. Mary Soderstrom, a representative of Avcon, says the plan must not include extending most runways into neighborhoods because that is considered an environmental concern and the federal government will not allow it, not to mention concerns about plant and animal life. Soderstrom says the plan, which would take upwards of twenty to thirty years to come to fruition, would not be much of a burden financially for the county. Soderstrom believes the best plan for airport development is continued development on the airport’s western quadrant and extending only one of the runways, Runway 5, for development. Soderstrom says concerns about extending this runway include running into Highway 98 and also a small civic building owned by the county which may have to be moved.

For the first time in nearly a month and a half, the Okeechobee County School Board met this past Tuesday night and one of the items they approved was a policy about religious expression. Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says the state legislature passed a law last year that required school districts to have a policy allowing for students to be able to express their religious beliefs on school grounds. Okeechobee County’s school district policy now allows students to express their religion and faculty can also participate as long as it’s student-led and not faculty-led, according to Kenworthy. The policy was introduced at the October 8th school board meeting and advertised for just over a month before being approved at Tuesday night’s meeting.

On the arrest report:

33 year old Gary Gene Miller of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. His bond has not been set.

21 year old Tyler Allen Holland of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft of a firearm and armed burglary. His bond has not been set.