LANCASTER — Lincoln and Garrard counties are preparing to find out if a plan to fund 911 service through water meter fees will hold up in court.
Garrard County magistrates passed Monday evening the second reading of an ordinance implementing a 25-cent monthly fee on all water meters in the county.
Judge-Executive John Wilson said the plan is to have Garrard County magistrates formally ask the city of Lancaster to file suit against the ordinance, challenging its constitutionality.
Wilson said the "friendly lawsuit" is so the counties can be sure whether the new water meter fees will stand up before they commit fully to implementing them.
State law appears to be written to allow 911 funding through "any special tax, license, or fee not in conflict with the Constitution and statutes."
But because 911 service has never been funded in Kentucky by a utility fee before, officials have said they want to make doubly sure it will hold up before they commit to using it.
Lincoln County magistrates have already passed a nearly identical ordinance implementing a 25-cent monthly fee on their county's water meters.
Wilson said if a judge rules in favor of the ordinances, then the counties can move forward "in good faith" and raise their monthly water meter fees high enough to provide funding for Bluegrass 911, the 911 call center that serves Garrard and Lincoln counties.
Previously, the counties had planned on implementing a $2.50 monthly water meter fee on all water meters, regardless of ownership. But with plans to make exemptions for some residents with multiple water meters, Wilson and Garrard Magistrate Joe Leavell, both of whom serve on Bluegrass 911's board, said they think it might be prudent to charge about $2.75 instead.
The extra quarter could provide a cushion because the counties won't be collecting fees on every single meter as originally planned, they said.
If the water meter fees prove constitutionally sound, the counties plan to repeal the existing landline phone fees that currently provide income for Bluegrass 911.
Supporters of the plan say that as fewer and fewer people use landline phones, Bluegrass 911 must either find a different source of income or increase landline fees substantially, which would place the financial burden for 911 service unfairly on a small number of residents.