Bowling Green city commissioners took a first step Tuesday toward adding seasonal workers to deal with the aftermath of the Dec. 11 tornadoes.

In a first reading, commissioners approved temporarily hiring five people to help coordinate relief efforts – a task that has largely fallen to volunteers.

City Manager Jeff Meisel noted that “people can’t volunteer forever.”

The positions, which would need final approval at the Jan. 18 city commission meeting, would pay $17.75 an hour and last for 90 days.

Having dedicated workers “will give us some continuity” in relief efforts, Meisel said.

The city and county have set up a consolidated relief and recovery center at the old Sears location at Greenwood Mall.

Commissioners also approved reaching out to the Open Society Foundation for a possible $200,000 grant to aid with the resettlement of Afghan refugees in the city.

City International Communities Liaison Leyda Becker said about 200 Afghan refugees have already come to the community – including some entire families, but also many individuals who worked with the U.S. military.

Becker said the funding could be used for efforts such as teaching the refugees English, helping them navigate the city or to hire a coordinator to oversee the efforts. Up to 350 Afghan refugees are expected to come to the city through the International Center of Kentucky, with the remaining refugees expected to arrive soon, she said.

Commissioner Dana Beasley-Brown said she has seen some of the new Afghan refugees already step in to help with tornado relief efforts in their adopted hometown.

“It was a beautiful thing to witness,” she said.

Commissioners also accepted a $1.3 million bid from Creative Bus Sales of College Park, Ga., for six buses to be used for GO bg Transit.

Mesiel said the city has received some federal funding to update the transit fleet. It’s unknown when the buses may arrive and be added to the fleet.

During the public comment portion at the end of the commission meeting, Joan Allen said she was “confused” about a text her husband received from a volunteer, who said she was working with Beasley-Brown and Commissioner Carlos Bailey, offering help with storm recovery.

Beasley-Brown said volunteers used a database of numbers to reach out to members of the public who were likely to have been in the storm’s path.

“We wanted to make sure people got the help they need,” Bailey said.

In the days after the tornadoes, various elected officials reached out offering storm assistance, such as a social media post from Warren County government listing phone numbers for each county magistrate.

“Every single one of us has set aside our differences,” Beasley-Brown said.

Bailey said in the tornadoes’ aftermath he was out unloading donation trucks rather than posing for pictures.

“I’m not trying to take advantage of anyone’s worst day,” he said.

– Follow Managing Editor Wes Swietek on Twitter @WesSwietek or visit bgdaily news.com.

– Follow Managing Editor Wes Swietek on Twitter @WesSwietek or visit bgdailynews.com.

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