Of those who do still have landlines, many of them are seniors living on fixed incomes, Day said.
"We are unfairly placing the burden on older people in our county," he said. "I think that this fee passes that (911 cost) back out, spreads it more evenly among a greater number of people in Lincoln County."
Records from Bluegrass 911 show there were a total of 12,617 active landlines in Lincoln and Garrard counties in May. That number is down more than 4 percent from 13,194 active landlines in July 2011.
The loss of landline customers is an ongoing trend that has been affecting Bluegrass 911 funding for years.
According to a reporter's August 2009 analysis of Bluegrass 911 financial records, the number of landline customers in Lincoln County declined by as much as 20 percent between 2005 and 2008.
Lincoln County Judge-Executive Jim Adams said there are currently around 17,300 water meters in use in Lincoln and Garrard counties.
That means Bluegrass 911 would receive about $43,000 per month (more than $515,000 per year) from a $2.50 monthly water meter surcharge.
Unlike landlines, water meter use is steady and will increase if more people move into Lincoln County, Adams said.
"Water meters will be tied to growth," he said. "As our needs grow, as our responsibilities grow with 911, there should be a revenue source there, I hope."
Magistrate David Faulkner, who also serves on the Bluegrass 911 board along with Day and Adams, said he's been watching as income for the 911 center shrinks along with the number of landlines in the county.
"The fact of the matter is 911 will close," he said. "It'll close its doors in a year if we don't do something."
Faulkner said another, less desirable option for covering the cost of 911 service is to pay for it out of the county's general fund.
"But we don't put any general fund money into it now," he said. "It's self-sustaining, but it's getting ready to be not self-sustaining."
Magistrate Johnnie Padgett said whether the county uses a 911 surcharge or brings in additional revenue another way and pays for 911 service from the general fund, there's really no way around the cost of providing 911 service.
"Taxpayers are going to pay this either way, no matter what," he said.
Magistrate Joe Stanley said he is concerned about people who have multiple water meters having to pay multiple surcharges. Day said he would look into the possibilities for preventing people from paying the surcharge more than once, but that it might not be possible since the county's different water associations don't share customer information.
"It's a valid concern, Joe," Day said. "We can see if there's a way we can do that."
One member of the audience said he was concerned that the court was removing the fee it collects on landlines, but people with cell phones would still be paying to support the 911 center.
Cell phone companies pay about 70 cents per cell phone to the state for 911 service, but less than half of the money paid for cell phones in Lincoln County comes back to fund Bluegrass 911.
Day acknowledged that the monthly fee on cell phones would not be going away, but said the county has no control over the fees imposed by the state on cell phones.
Adams said cell phone fees previously helped sustain Bluegrass 911 even as landlines disappeared because cell phone use was growing.
But now, the county's cell phone market is "pretty much saturated" and cell phone fees are no longer enough to make up for the lost landlines, Adams said.
At a Bluegrass 911 board meeting earlier this month, Director Russ Clark said the switch from landlines to water meters in Lincoln and Garrard counties is expected to bring in about $30,000 more per year.
Day said the extra income should be enough to cover the costs of maintaining updated equipment and software at the 911 center, as well as rising 911 employment costs like healthcare and retirement, for at least five years.
"We are hopeful that that fee will be in place at this amount for five — maybe more — years before there's any discussion of an increase," Day said.
Adams said as battles in Frankfort fail year after year to change how well cell phones fund 911 services, it became necessary for Bluegrass 911 to search out alternative sources of income.
"Let's face it — AT&T has a lot of lobbyists," he said. "We have to look for revenues in the fairest place we can."