Newly seated Commissioner Chris Harris was the first board member to publicly question the village’s spending on government-sponsored fests, a topic that was controversial among previous board members.

Harris probed Mayor Anthony Calderone to justify why the village is spending $1,200 to hire the band Souled Out for the final concert of Groovin’ in the Grove festival on Aug. 16. The fest is held at the Altenheim property, 7248 Madison St., and features two other performances on June 21 and July 19.

“That seems fairly high to me. … you can get equivalent talent for less,” Harris told Calderone, at a recent council meeting.

“There’s no question that you can always get a cheaper band,” Calderone answered back. “I would direct you to their website where … you can see what type of music they play.”

Calderone then asked Karen Dylewski, executive director of the Howard Mohr Community Center, to step up to the podium and explain to Harris and the public the negotiating, which she does personally.

Dylewski noted that, in the past, bands have asked for more than $3,000, but the village never paid that sum. She also said that $1,200 was the “going rate.”

“If you have recommendations, I would encourage you to share them,” Calderone told Harris.

Later, Harris responded in an email exchange with the Review: “Bands often look at municipalities as a ‘pay day’ because towns are not professional talent buyers, nor should they be. This isn’t a knock on anyone; it’s just an area where we can save a little money, and in these times we need to make sure we are being efficient with our dollars. I talked to a talent-buyer friend who used to book Blue Chip Casino and now books for the Wit Hotel Group. He confirmed that $600 is a completely realistic number [to charge a band].”

Harris added that $1,200 was “too much,” but he still voted in favor of approving the expense.

Previously, council members argued over the cost of entertainment for last year’s Rib Fest, and whether the festival was profitable – a statement provided by the village proved that it was.

Souled Out bills itself as “a high-energy, 12-piece funk band with a five-piece blazing horn section, which incorporates a funk sound so intoxicating with elusive harmonies and a syncopated rhythm that you just can’t help but get out of your seat and dance the night away!”