Albert Lea , Austin agree to share finance director

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, February 23, 2011

By Amanda Lillie, staff reporter

AUSTIN — In a move that will save the city of Austin $5,000 per month, Austin City Council members voted Tuesday to temporarily share the services of city Finance Director Tom Dankert with Albert Lea.

For now, the two cities have agreed to share Dankert’s services from April 1 to Aug. 31 — five months in which Austin will save roughly $25,000 and Albert Lea will have time to search for a new city manager.

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The measure passed by a vote of 6-0, and city officials seemed hopeful that the agreement will work.

“You can’t try something new without trying something new,” Ward 1 Councilor Brian McAlister said at the meeting. “This relatively short period of time is a test period to see what happens. It’ll probably be a real learning experience for both communities.”

City officials from Austin and Albert Lea have discussed the possibility of extending the agreement depending on how well the initial five months go, but nothing is set in stone yet. The shared services contract between the two entities also allows for either party to end the arrangement at any time as long as 30 days notice is given.

Unless the agreement is extended to a permanent situation, Austin and Albert Lea will not evenly split the cost of employing Dankert. Instead, Austin will bill Albert Lea on an hourly basis for the time Dankert spends there. He will also receive a travel stipend for any Albert Lea-related traveling done outside of regular work hours.

“It’s an opportunity for us to explore this and see how it goes,” Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen previously said. “If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we’re okay with that too.”