The outreach methods below are included as part of the Cohesion Pillar of the Environmental Justice Community Mitigation Plan. These outreach methods work to build a cohesive community. Within a cohesive community, one should find a common vision and sense of belonging for all residents; a diversity of backgrounds where circumstances are appreciated and positively valued so that everyone benefits from their similar life opportunities; and a network of strong and positive relationships between people with different interests, careers, and education within their neighborhood.
Community Advisory Council (CAC)
SCDOT will continue to support the CAC throughout the remainder of the I-526 LCC WEST project development phase and publishing of the FEIS/ROD by facilitating their regularly scheduled monthly meetings and providing logistical and administrative support, as needed. When the project transitions from the project development phase (which includes development of the Environmental Justice Community Mitigation Plan) to the design phase, a Project Oversight Committee (POC) tasked with overseeing the implementation of the various EJ mitigation commitments will be initiated.
SCDOT will continue to operate and maintain a Community Office for the remainder of the project development phase and throughout both the final design and right-of-way phases of the project. The Community Office will continue to be staffed with a full-time Office Manager, Community Liaisons/Outreach Specialists, and part-time Right-of-Way Specialists who will be available to provide community residents with real-time project, relocation, and property acquisition information. Once the FEIS/ROD is approved, the Community Office will serve as a location for residents to receive information related to the implementation of the items identified in this EJ Community Mitigation Plan and the meeting place for the POC. Additionally, the Community Office will be available to serve as a meeting space for community advocacy groups and other stakeholders with an interest in the I-526 LCC WEST project.
SCDOT will provide organizational training for the CAC and community members interested in creating a community advocacy group. The Community Office and its staff will be available to provide support and identify resources that support, at a minimum, the new group’s administrative and leadership development and strategic and community planning. The organizational training will be provided until 2024.
Community Resource Guide
SCDOT will work with the CAC, Community Liaisons, and local non-profit organizations to develop a Community Resource Guide for EJ neighborhood residents. The purpose of the guide is to help sustain livability within affected EJ neighborhoods by increasing residents’ awareness of local organizations, resources, and other information on the following topics: food insecurities; health and wellness; home repair; financial assistance; minority-owned businesses; and referral agencies. The Community Resource Guide will be made available to residents of the EJ neighborhoods within six months of the approval of the FEIS/ROD. It will be updated yearly throughout the construction of the project. In addition to the guide, free informational workshops will be held at the Community Office to connect neighborhood residents with experts, bringing the resources in the guide to the community. Beginning in Fall 2021, monthly workshops are being held on topics such as personal finance, mental health, creating a will, and more.
Project Oversight Committee
A Project Oversight Committee (POC) will be established after the FEIS/ROD is approved. At that time, the POC will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of the EJ Community Mitigation Plan commitments. Prior CAC members and/or EJ neighborhood residents interested in getting involved with the project will be encouraged to participate on the POC. In addition to residents, the POC will consist of agency representatives responsible for implementing the various components of the EJ Community Mitigation Plan including: SCDOT, FHWA, the City of North Charleston, North Charleston Housing Authority, and the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG).
SCDOT will provide administrative support to the POC, consistent with the services provided to the CAC, as it assumes the following duties:
- Coordinate with technical staff on issues related to implementation of the components in the Mitigation Plan, and
- Serve as a liaison between the communities and project staff during the final design and construction phases.
- Assist SCDOT in outreach efforts and meetings to get input from the greater community on detailed design concepts for those mitigation items that require physical construction.
Once established, it is anticipated that the POC would meet on a quarterly basis until the completion of all EJ Mitigation components.
Educational & Employment Initiatives
The initiatives below fall under the Revitalization Pillar of the Environmental Justice Community Mitigation Plan because they focus on providing employment/economic opportunities for neighborhood residents.
UPDATED: SCDOT will develop partnerships with organizations to develop school-to-work employment programs with the goal of enhancing employment opportunities within the fields of construction, engineering, and transportation. During the right-of-way phase, an internship program will be funded by SCDOT to provide 20 internships (increased from 10) in the transportation sector to high school students, college students and young adults up to age 25 from the impacted EJ neighborhoods. This program will begin in 2023 and end once 20 students have participated.
College Aid Initiative
UPDATED: SCDOT will establish and manage a scholarship fund of up to $500,000 (increased from $100,000). High school and college students that intend to or are currently attending institutions of higher education will be eligible for the scholarship. Residents of the EJ neighborhoods that will be displaced and relocated by the proposed project would remain eligible for the scholarship program. Members of the Community Advisory Council will assist in the development of the selection criteria, and members of the Project Oversight Committee will assist in the selection of the scholarship recipients. The College Aid Initiative will begin in 2023, and funds will be available while the project is in construction or until all scholarship funds have been awarded.
SCDOT will identify and provide financial support for pre-employment training opportunities that encourage career placement in the transportation industry. The program will be administered through the Community Office prior to construction of the interstate improvements. Priority will be given to residents in the impacted communities of Ferndale, Highland Terrace, Joppa Way, Liberty Park, and Russelldale Needs a period.
Summer Transportation Institute Program
UPDATED: SCDOT will provide skill-building programs to create awareness of and expose high school students to career opportunities in the transportation industry. The program will begin in 2023 and SCDOT will provide the Summer Transportation Institute Program each summer throughout the project construction. Priority will be given to students from the impacted communities for up to 50% of the slots per year.
NEW! Small Business Development Program
SCDOT will create an educational program to bring awareness to the generational wealth benefits of entrepreneurship. SCDOT will partner with organizations and other disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) in SC to develop and deliver an educational program that empowers residents interested in learning about starting a small business enterprise (SBE). The goal of this program is to bring awareness to small business resources and to the benefits and programs offered in South Carolina. Information sessions will be held and additional opportunities to work on the I-526 LCC projects will be offered for disadvantaged business enterprises.