Commissioners discussed changes to taxpayer spending after park opening

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Two county commissioners are discussing changes to what taxpayer money can be spent on after learning about the huge tab for the Romare Bearden Park grand opening Labor Day weekend.

Parks and Recreation sent Eyewitness News a copy of the tab for taxpayers, which came to $162,522.

The total includes $74,000 for the stage and production and $51,000 was spent on entertainers.

Singer Jo Dee Messina alone was paid $33,000 to perform.

A county worker pointed out that is more than they make in a year.

"There are still a lot of families struggling, and I want to be sensitive to them and their tax dollars, " said Commissioner Chair Pat Cotham.

She is scheduled for a discussion to learn more about the cost the celebration.

Commissioner Matt Ridenhour would consider eliminating free alcohol from taxpayer-funded events.

"Unemployment? We'll deal with that later, but right now we have an open bar and a great park to open. It doesn't send the right message to taxpayers," said Ridenhour. 

Parks and Recreation sent Channel 9 a statement saying the expenses were all approved in their budget and stated, "When large cities like Charlotte open these types of parks, programing celebration needs to be a part of it."

Commissioners to whom Eyewitness News spoke tended to agree, but also considered how it all looks.

The county will soon be facing a $50 million shortfall as it refunds money from incorrect tax bills.