Garrard County Water Association appeals court ruling
Published 8:16 am Monday, October 2, 2017
STANFORD – Lincoln County is moving forward with water meter fees to fund the regional 911 dispatch services, despite a recent appeal by a neighboring county’s water company.
Judge-Executive Jim Adams asked fiscal court magistrates Tuesday morning to give County Attorney Daryl Day the authority to compose a letter to water companies in the county instructing them to begin collecting the $4 per month water meter fees for Bluegrass 911 Communications beginning Nov. 1.
The Garrard County Water Association has filed a new appeal asking the Kentucky Supreme Court to deliver a discretionary review, according to Day.
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Day reiterated the fact that no lawsuit related to the water meter fees has been filed against the Lincoln County Fiscal Court since the Garrard County case began in 2012.
Magistrate David Faulkner expressed his frustration with the City of Stanford “joining forces” with the Garrard County Water Company, despite the regular help the city receives from the county.
“They have joined together to appeal it, they have fought us every step of the way and they’re still fighting us,” Faulkner said. “We have taken $135,077 out of general fund money…to fund 911 because they have fought this.”
Faulkner said he doesn’t understand how local officials can ask the fiscal court for help while fighting the water meter fees.
Adams said when a ruling is given and the letters have been sent to water companies, then the clock starts ticking.
“If they pay us the $4, which I assume most of them will, then if we (Bluegrass 911) get an adverse ruling, then we will owe them the $4 back and probably, maybe attorney fees, I don’t know,” Adams said. “But if we win again, then they will owe us. At that point, we have no choice but to insist that they pay us.”
Day said the Kentucky Court of Appeals previously ruled on a Campbell County case allowing fees to be placed on occupied parcels but in their ruling they said under the statute “any 911 fee that bears a reasonable relationship to 911 services is approved.”
“If there’s a water meter, that means that people are probably there from time-to-time because no one has a water meter out where they never go,” Day said. “So that bears a reasonable relationship is what the court of appeals ruled on the water meter fee.”
Most recently, the Garrard County Water Association has taken the Court of Appeals ruling, which is based on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Campbell County case and have asked the Supreme Court to give a discretionary review.
“In my honest opinion, they are wrong,” Day said.
Day said Supreme Court Justice Daniel Venters was the one dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court’s ruling on the fee on parcels and in that opinion, Venters mentioned the water meter fee.
“He said, ‘We don’t have to do this, there’s another case pending before us that does it the right way,’ talking about the water meter fee,” he said. “So the one dissent in the Campbell County case is already on our side.”
The recent appeal is a last-ditch effort to delay the process.
“I think there are people making some of these decisions that are thinking with their own pocketbook, their own checkbook, rather than what’s for the good of their citizens,” Day said. “And I think that’s sad. This is a life-and-death service. This is a life-saving service from both police, fire and EMS. At some point we all have to be citizens of the county and we all have to realize that as citizens of it, we need these services.”
Day said he takes issue with the fact that the fiscal court paying out $135,000 for 911 services and a large percentage of those calls are coming from agencies that are funded by city taxpayers.
“You can’t continuously ask the fiscal court to pay for this service when there’s other taxing agencies that aren’t putting any money into it,” he said.
Over a decade ago, the county and cities in Lincoln had an interlocal agreement that divided the cost of 911 services among each based on the population size of each, Day said. That changed when the regional 911 center was created.
“When we did the regional 911, at that point we had enough landline phones, we increased the landline phone fee to such a level that it was being covered,” he said. “But as we’ve probably lost, in the last 10 years, 6,000 to 8,000 landline phones in the county…and the cell phone fee hasn’t changed in the last 20 years, let alone the last 10, so we’ve had to come up with more money.”
Day said it’s fundamentally unfair to continue to ask primarily businesses and elderly residents to fund 911.
“We’d have to set that (landline fee) at $10 to $12 a month,” he said.
The county attorney’s office currently pays $16 a month because it has four landline phone lines.
“At some point we have to do something that’s fair and fair is everybody who may use 911 has to contribute an equal amount,” he said. “That’s what this does.”
Day said the current landline fees are not fair.
“I take issue with people not wanting to be good citizens and help provide for a service that not one person in this county would deny that we need,” he said. “Hopefully most people in this county never have to 911 but when you call, you want someone to answer the phone…”