Farmington Hills is throwing out the welcome mat for hometown “American Idol” finalist Jena Irene.

But the celebration will come with a price — and “American Idol” executives have told city and school officials they have “no budget” to help pay for the event, according to one city official who spoke to WWJ Newsradio, but didn’t want to be named. He says the event will cost the city more than $10,000 for security, public works employees, clean-up, and more.

Local businesses are helping to pick up those costs, according to the city official; the details of who’s paying for what aren’t yet clear. A FOX spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

According to news reports earlier this year, the long-running show is set to lose money in 2014, after spending $5-$7 million on a new set; and paying celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez $17.5 million, and host Ryan Seacrest $15 million.  Following annual declines in tax revenue in every year since 2009, Farmington Hills’ municipal budget for 2013-2014 is $51.8 million.

“Although we are seeing improvements, these continue to be financially challenging and dynamic times,” the city’s annual budget report says.

But for city officials, the show must go on for this hometown singing talent. Mayor Barry Brickner and other city officials will be at the event, where Irene is expected to sing four or five songs.

“Jena just keeps getting better and better,” Brickner said. “Now she is absolutely the best and we have no doubt that the next time we welcome her home, she will be the ‘American Idol’ winner.” 

Farmington schools officials received word first on Monday that a homecoming may be happening for Irene — one of three finalists in the popular singing show — but it wasn’t until late Thursday night that anyone knew for sure it was happening. Now city officials say they’re scrambling to make it happen.

The parade starts at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, and runs down 13 Mile Road, starting at Chesterbrook halfway between Orchard Lake and Farmington Roads. The parade will end up in the parking lot at North Farmington High School, where Irene is a senior.

The hometown visit will continue with a concert at 3:30 p.m. at the North Farmington High School stadium. Tickets are not required. There will be seating in the bleachers and on the field.

Farmington Hills city officials are asking people to ride together because in addition to money — parking will be an issue. 


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