County approves spring military exerciseLocal leaders dispel past rumors about unconventional warfare training

Ector County Commissioners on Monday cast their support for an unconventional warfare training exercise planned by the military for April, and the local leaders sought to dispel the sort of conspiracy theories that surrounded a similar exercise in recent years.

The Odessa City Council is scheduled to vote on a similar resolution of support today, about a month after their counterparts in Midland did the same. The training exercise is scheduled to last from March 31 through April 24 (the county resolution included a start date of April 1).

Ector County Judge Ron Eckert said the exercise involves plain clothes soldiers who will not be using weapons.

“It’s just a few individuals doing some role playing, as I understand it,” Eckert said.

The federal government defines unconventional warfare as “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”

In 2015, a range of conspiracy theories surrounded the military’s multi-state training exercise Jade Helm, including a take-over of a Midland Wal-Mart that (obviously) never happened. Eckert joked Monday about the rumors that followed news of that program. 

“That’s one of the things I wanted to dispel,” Eckert said. “We don’t need to get into a mass panic. They aren’t taking over any retail stores.”

After several such military exercises in West Texas in recent years, Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said Monday he did not know of a single problem or legitimate complaint.

“Rumors abound,” Griffis said.

 In other business, Commissioners:

>> Rejected a study of energy use on county property aimed at reducing costs and improving facility operations, choosing to postpone any such study until later this year.

>> Approved the appointment of Richard ‘Buz’ Browning, Winston Kenworthy and Monnie Sparkman to the Ector County Airport Advisory Board.

>> Approved upgrades to the main hangar by Wildcatter Aviation, with no expenditure by the county required.

>> Approved an additional $50 premium to increase auto coverage from $75,000 to $90,000. Commissioners will also consider approving a contract with their insurance provider.

>> Received an update on building maintenance projects.

>> Rejected bids on the West 16th Street and Knox Avenue project The bids were about $60,000 over budget from available funding.

>> Approved specifications for seeking another bid related to liquid asphalt emulsion, asphalt patching material, graded base material, water and seal coat aggregate.

>> Approved a $1,485 change order relating to a roof project for the Ector County Law Enforcement Center.

>> Approved the 2017 Indigent Defense Formula Grant of about $127,491.

>> Approved a building maintenance plumbing project with ICON Systems and accepted amending the general fund budget to include $150,000 in donated revenue. 

>> Approved renewing an annual agreement with County Information Resources Agency for technology services.

>> Approved authorizing the Ector County Health Department to spend $600 on advertising related to an immunization grant.

>> Approved applying for funds for an epidemiology program.

>> Approved authorizing Public Works Project Manager David Peck and other employees to have signatory authority on certain purchase orders and financial documents after another county employee retired.

>> Approved a request by County Attorney Dusty Gallivan to hire an attorney at a Step 5.

>> Approved hiring an employee to assist with the transition from bi-weekly payroll.

>> Approved a budget amendment for a $6,668 donation to the Ector County Sheriff’s Office.

>> Approved an extension a criminal justice grant.

>> Approved the Accounts Payable Fund Requirements Report and reviewed county financial statements.

>> Discussed legal matters in executive session, referring two cases to outside attorneys.

>> Discussed filling the vacancy of the Highways and Streets director in executive session but took no action.