BY DEBBIE PAGE
After President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday last year, states and municipalities started exploring how to best commemorate the observance.
Troutman Town Council members began discussions on Monday afternoon at their pre-agenda meeting on how Troutman might participate in this event next year.
Juneteenth, which blends the words “June” and “nineteenth,” is a celebration of the June 19, 1865, message of emancipation that Texas slaves received when Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to share the news, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln declared slaves to be free in the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
Many African-Americans consider Juneteenth as Emancipation Day, celebrating the event with speakers, prayer services, food, and cultural activities. All states and the District of Columbia recognize the holiday in some way, with the last holdout, South Dakota, passing a bill recognizing the holiday this spring.
Federal workers will have Monday off this year since the holiday falls on a Sunday. However, federal holidays are not mandatory for businesses.
In North Carolina, Juneteenth National Freedom Day is recognized by Session Law 2007-450, but like several other cultural and religious observance days, Juneteenth is not a paid holiday for state employees.
However, on June 6, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 262 giving eight hours of “personal observance leave” for executive branch state agencies to observe Juneteenth or any other day of cultural or religious significance of the employee’s choice, without questioning by supervisors but requiring their approval.
Other state agencies not in the executive branch can voluntarily choose to participate by notifying the Office of State Human Resources. The executive order does not apply to municipalities, counties, local government agencies, or private businesses.
JUNETEENTH IN TROUTMAN
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel, filling in for Mayor Teross Young who phoned into the meeting because of a business trip, said the council and staff wanted to start a dialogue about the Juneteenth observance to have a plan in place for next year.
Options included adding Juneteenth as a holiday, doing some sort of celebration in partnership with interested groups, or contributing financially to a celebration planned by a community group.
Town Manager Ron Wyatt noted that the Town of Mooresville has contributed funds toward annual community celebrations through a nonprofit group for the past several years. Mooresville voted last year to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for its employees.
Statesville has helped sponsor a Juneteenth celebration through one of its entities for several years. The 2022 Juneteenth Celebration Planning Committee of Statesville announced that the city is co-sponsoring this year’s event, which is on West Broad Street between Meeting and Mulberry Streets on Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wyatt said he has attended the Statesville celebrations for several years and encouraged others to attend.
Mecklenburg County also voted to make Juneteenth a paid holiday, beginning this year. Wyatt said Iredell County follows the official state holiday schedule, so it does not give the day off.
The town could help fund a non-profit group’s Juneteenth celebration as Mooresville has or could offer ESC Park or a street closure area and funding for hamburgers and hot dogs for the celebration.
Henkel said that until the state makes it an official holiday, the town could help with celebrations and offer a proclamation to promote awareness of the observance. “I’m glad we’ve started the discussion,” he said.
Mayor Young said Salisbury partners with various organizations to hold its annual celebration, including the NAACP, the Parks and Recreation Department, and Novant Health.
“I would encourage us to continue to see if that is something we can do in our community as well,” said Young.
Council members also discussed whether to reach out to groups or to form a committee to make event decisions as they do for other town events. They agreed that offering town facilities and financial resources would be appropriate in any case.
In other business:
♦ Staff introduced summer interns Riley Gallagher in the police department and Josh Heatherly in administrative and parks and recreation departments.
♦ Council discussed looking into sign limits of two signs per candidate at the library during October/November voting. Council member Eddie Nau expressed concerns about the excessive sign clutter during the May primary voting period.
♦ Council interviewed Tonya Bartlett and Mark Michel for open Planning and Zoning Board seats. Two other candidates could not attend due to illness or other obligations, so the council voted to remove the selection from Thursday’s agenda and invite the two others to next month’s pre-agenda meeting for an interview opportunity.
♦ Council learned the electronic sign is still having technical issues but is under warranty. The company is trying to solve these problems as well as connectivity issues with town staff.
♦ In the quest to resolve Town Hall crowding issues, Wyatt said the white house next door will be ready for Planning and Zoning occupancy after an access ramp is built. All other work is complete. The brick house at the park entrance will be inspected to see what is needed to use it as a publicly accessible office, if the town decides to utilize it in that way.
UPCOMING THURSDAY NIGHT
Items before council on Thursday include:
♦ Consideration of the proposed 2022-23 town budget.
♦ A request to rezone 24 acres on South Eastway for the revamped Troutman Townes project, which reduced from 195 to 96 units to meet the four units per acre density recommended in the Future Land Use Map.
♦ A request for heavy industrial rezoning and annexation of just over 91 acres for the proposed Houston Road Distribution Center, featuring 698,220 square feet of warehousing/distribution space over three buildings, with two on the north side of Houston Road (340,200 and 217,620 square feet) and one on the south side (140,400 square feet). The site fronts I-77 and Houston Road on the east side of the interstate, an area designated for industrial uses in the Future Land Use Plan. The Summertree subdivision and the Lowe’s Planogram are located nearby.
♦ Solid Rock Ventures’ request for the rezoning and annexation of nearly 18 acres on Highway 21 just north of Iredell Charter School for a shopping center anchored by a grocery store chain that is confidential at this time.
♦ Approval of 2021-2022 year-end budget amendments.
♦ Consideration of closing of a portion of Lytton Street for a Troutman Methodist special event.
♦ The J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library quarterly report.