Jul. 31—ALBANY — The day that commemorates when some of the last enslaved Americans became aware of their freedom will now be a holiday for Albany city employees.
The Albany City Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to establish Juneteenth as a paid holiday for the city's 1,100 workers.
"I'm recommending that Juneteenth be established as a city holiday," Interim City Manager Steven Carter told commissioners. "It's already been established as a national holiday. The county has established it as a county holiday, as an added holiday."
Commissioner Jon Howard said he hopes that employees also will educate themselves on the significance of the holiday.
"They will be amazed at what happened," he said.
While the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in 1863, many slaves still living in Confederate territory remained in bondage.
When Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, they announced that some 250,000 slaves were free by executive order. That day came to be known as Juneteenth.
Carter said that the commission will not have to increase the budget to add the holiday to the calendar.
In other business Wednesday, the commission:
— Approved awarding a contract for construction of a new transportation center on West Oglethorpe Boulevard to LRA Constructors of Albany at a cost of $11.54 million. The city is working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to address a shortfall of $2 million for construction costs.
— Authorized the use of $1.07 million raised through a special-purpose local-option sales tax for an East Broad Avenue sewer/stormwater separation project and approved a contract with Jim Boyd Construction to perform the work.
— Voted to allow the Albany Police Department to apply for an $83,805 justice assistance grant that can be used to hire additional personnel and for equipment, training and technical assistance.
— Accepted a $50,000 grant from Firehouse Subs that will be used by the Albany Fire Department to purchase dive equipment to replace aging equipment.