City agrees to share Dankert
The Austin City Council on Tuesday approved its end of a shared-services agreement with Albert Lea, clearing the way for the two cities to capitalize on Tom Dankert's financial expertise.
Dankert will operate as finance director for both municipalities, saving Austin $5,000 per month.
Albert Lea has been without a finance director for some time, its city officials said earlier this month, prompting them to propose the collaboration.
The cities agreed to a trial period of April 1-Aug. 1, with earlier termination allowed with a 30-day written notice.
"Mr. Dankert seems to be secure in the knowledge that the staff here will be able to take care of things," said council member Brian McAlister. "When it comes to saving money, this is a great opportunity to find out if it will work or not.
"You can't try something new without trying something new," he said.
The lone sticking point in the agreement is a contractual obligation with two Austin public works units that each require a weekly payroll, necessitating extra time.
That becomes key when discussing shifting some of Dankert's duties to other city employees. Dankert also acts as recorder for the city.
There has been no movement on the payroll matter, said Austin City Administrator Jim Hurm, "but we're working on it."
Dankert seems to have taken the agreement in stride, calling it "a learning experience."
As he had during the original proposal, councilor Jeff Austin voiced guarded optimism.
"I'm in favor of trying this," he said Tuesday, "but we need to mention that Mr. Dankert is making a pretty big sacrifice in doing this, and I hope we don't see it wasted in other departments. I don't want to see other departments gobble the savings up."
The agreement will be contingent on outside reviews from the League of Minnesota Cities.