The Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission members started the first meeting of the year Wednesday with election of 2021 officers.

Tammy Kratzer is president for the second year with Kathy Ray as vice president. Jo Paczkowski is secretary and John Hall continues as treasurer.

Hall was absent from the meeting, but Mark Skibowski said Hall would accept the office.

The commission issues grants funded by the innkeepers tax. The collected money is then redistributed to organizations to help with promotion costs to draw people to the area and provides funds for other expenses.

Renea Salyer, the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce executive director, appeared before the commission requesting a $1,600 grant for the winter carnival event, set for Feb. 13.

Salyer said this year would be a little different with people taking cards from location to location to be stamped for prizes later. The public events include ice sculptures, a dog sled demonstration and glass blowing.

Salyer said the office staff was just now seeking donations for the event, which was expected to cost about $4,000.

Paczkowski noted the carnival is a month away, which didn’t give them much time to promote the event. She also asked if the health department had been contacted about the number of people expected to be there and Salyer said they hadn’t.

“We’ve actually thought about cancelling,” Salyer said.

“My vote is not to have it,” Paczkowski said. The other commissioners agreed with her, voting no to the grant request.

Chad Briscoe’s request for $5,000 to promote the mid-March NCCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships at Grace College was approved 4-1.

Briscoe, GC’s director of athletics, said 16 teams will participate in the tournament. Attendance in the gymnasium will be limited to 200 people, with each athlete offered a limit of two tickets each.

Last year the event was cancelled right before it started because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paczkowski’s opinion was the tournament could be cancelled again. She also pointed out attendance would be limited to family members, who were already attending.

Ray, who manages the Hampton Inn, said the tournament is a boon to the local hotels with half of the Hampton Inn scheduled for occupancy, along with other hotels in the area.

Briscoe said unlike other tournaments, the teams continue to play and would be here five days.

Skibowski said regardless of who is coming, the people spend money at the gas stations, restaurants, businesses and grocery stores, too.

Kratzer, Ray, Skibowski and David Gustafson voted to approve the funding request, with Paczkowski voting nay.

Convention, Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jill Boggs said the latest travel statistics show 40% of people planning to travel this year will go by car and visit with family members; 15% will travel for leisure.

She said the staff is in the thick of visitor guide sales. She said last year sales were $92,047, but didn’t think it would be that high this year. So far, sales receipts are $33,500 with $61,000 the break even amount after printing, distribution and paying the sales team.

The board of director officers for 2021 are Doug Haines, president; Trace Hansen, vice president; Jenna Faas, secretary; and Jennifer Carnes, treasurer.

This year’s budget is $300,000 and Boggs noted any money over costs collected from the visitors guide goes into the marketing fund.

Skibowski noted that the sales column read $0. Carnes said that’s what their accountant recommended because they didn’t know what sales would be.

Boggs said the CVB is eligible for the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program and they would like to apply for the funds. She asked that a couple of the commissioners meet with the board of directors to complete the application. Skibowski and Gustafson agreed to the meeting.

Skibowski read the financial report, noting that the commissioners budgeted $231,000 for grant requests and $111,000 has already been approved, leaving about $40,000 for the rest of the year.

Innkeeper’s tax collections are down 32.5% compared to 2019.

Skibowski asked county auditor Michelle Puckett about meeting with county council members, and Puckett said they could attend a meeting or meet in a smaller group. He said he wanted to talk with council members about who the commissioners fund.

They decided meeting as a small group might be more productive.

The next commission meeting is March 10 at 9 a.m. in the courthouse’s old courtroom.