ElderCare shut down its kitchen at Villard Terrace Senior Apartments last week.

Colleen Rodakowski, ElderCare executive director, told city commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday that the agency is operating at a net loss.

"It's the first time in my history," she said. "We worked hard to try to get it to a positive, but we just couldn't."

ElderCare operated 22 meal sites in southwest North Dakota. Five have closed.

The nonprofit offered roughly 59,000 meals in 2018.

ElderCare provided 30,647 congregate meals to 716 seniors, and delivered 28,354 meals to 228 seniors at home.

Challenges for the agency include maintenance, staff salaries and raw foods.

"Some of our towns we're not feeding a lot of people, but we're still feeding them," Rodakowski said, "because if we're feeding one or two elderly, that's making a difference."

The decision to shut down the Villard Terrace kitchen came after being unable to find a cook and replacement staff.

"We're just not getting applications," Rodakowski said.

ElderCare been offering frozen, prepackaged meals to the homebound.

Rodakowski, though, has been working to subcontract with local restaurants and vendors to provide fresh meals.

"That's where we need to go," she said. "It's cheaper for us to purchase that meal from somebody already doing meals than us, and it's going to give seniors choices a little bit more."

Public Transit gave rides to more than 38,000 passengers in 2018.

Rodakowski, who serves as Public Transit director, told commissioners the numbers are a sharp increase from last year.

The agency helped 38,314 passengers in 2018, up from 32,662 passengers in 2017.

The number of trips was also up, Rodakowski said.

Public Transit provided 36,137 trips in 2018, up from 30,428 in 2017.

Rodakowski attributed the increase to lowered fares, changed hours and shifting drives during peak commuting hours.

"We put more drivers in the daytime to handle the busiest times of day," she said, "and that's where we see those increases in rides this year."

The top four usages for Public Transit in 2018 were work (39%), medical (22%), shopping (13%) and public buildings (8%).

Rodakowski noted it was the first time trips to public buildings had entered the agency's top four usages.

"Trips for social needs was in that spot," she said. "We've had work rides as No. 1 since 2012."

Public Transit offered about 14,000 trips for work in 2018, Rodakowski said.

The agency had a total income and expenditures of $1 million in 2018, leaving a net income of roughly $8,300.

The agency generated $466,339 in 2018, roughly 44% of its income.

The city provided $451,416 in matching funds, for another 45% of its income in 2018.

Fares represented the other 11% of its income.

Among the agency's challenges are traffic congestion and deteriorating road conditions, both worsening, Rodakowski said.

"That makes it hard for our kidney dialysis patients, elderly people we're taking in wheelchairs," she said. "I know you're working on that. We're on those roads every day."

In other business:

Commissioners approved an agreement with Convention Sports & Leisure International, based in Minneapolis, for an events center feasibility study.

Phase One of the study will cost $34,500. A cost of $15,000 for Phase Two was secured with the agreement, as well.

"The idea is to see work the work in Phase One and decide if and when the commission wants to move forward with Phase Two," City Administrator Joe Gaa said.

Changes will be made to the tasks to be completed with Phase One.

Moved from the list of Phase Two tasks are "usage and attendance estimates" and "site analysis and recommendations."

"A couple of tasks that were supposed to be in Phase One moved into Phase Two, somewhat inadvertently," Gaa said.

Phase Two will include preliminary construction costs.

"Phase One will say if we have the market to do it or if we don't," Gaa said. "If everything looks good, we will likely be able to move into Phase Two fairly soon."

Commissioner Carson Steiner voted against the agreement.

Gaa anticipates 10 weeks for completion, with the results returned in September.

Commissioners also approved selling a house at 805 Sims St.

The city is accepting bids starting at $150,000, the low end of its appraised value.

The property, built as a large single-family dwelling in the 1960s, was formerly used as the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center shelter.

As part of DVRCC's funding plan for its newly completed shelter, the city acquired the house.

With no potential use for the city, Gaa recommended selling it.

"It needs significant update, but with the right buyer and vision it could be a very modern, nice property again," he said.

The city's building department appraised the property's value at $150,000 to $200,000.

"It does need significant upgrades," Gaa said. "It could be worth $300,000, but that would take quite an investment."

Commissioner Jason Fridrich asked why the city doesn't sell the property through a broker.

"I think this will generate interest, and we won't have to worry about commissions," Gaa said. "We have sold property like this before."

He added, "It's a rather effective way to do it."