MARSHALL COUNTY — The Marshall County Fiscal Court is facing a lawsuit over its new 911 fee, which passed in August. The lawsuit was filed in federal court about a month ago. Jackson Purchase Energy and West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative are suing the fiscal court for requiring them to collect a monthly $7 fee on customers' electric bills.
The utility companies claim the ordinance takes away the regulatory authority of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Kentucky Public Service Commission. They oversee the of the two local companies suing the fiscal court.
The 37-page lawsuit outlined at least a dozen reasons why the ordinance is unenforceable and unconstitutional.
The complaint brings into question the validity of the ordinance, because the $7 fee wasn't revealed until its final reading. The suit says the fiscal court conducted a first reading "without the qualifications to determine the necessary fee themselves." The lawsuit also claims the 3% administration fee the electric companies would get for collecting the fees is not enough.
In a letter to the fiscal court, the TVA said it would not allow West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative to collect the fees if it wasn't "fully compensated for all costs associated with the administration, billing, collecting and accounting for the fees." That also includes additional software and supervisory costs.
JPEC said the only entity that can regulate its rates and services is the Kentucky Public Service Commission — not the fiscal court.
Three other counties in Kentucky do collect 911 fees on utility bills, but not electric bills. Those fees are collected on water bills. The electric companies have previously told us they will not cut off someone's electricity if they didn't pay the fee.
County Attorney Jason Darnall told me over the phone he's advised the companies not to talk about the pending litigation.
All parties in this suit came to an agreement to hold off on putting the new fee in place until litigation is complete.