Although we all love the convenience our cell phone gives us, staying connected to our loved ones wherever we roam is coming at a cost for counties who rely on a $2 per month surcharge on landline usage that is dropping drastically as people leave behind those phones once connected to their homes.

According to Greg Hale, General Manager for Logan Telephone Cooperative, the number of people that have landlines in the United States has decreased to about 40 percent as more consumers move to using wireless phones for any verbal communications.

Due to recent FCC changes, Logan Telephone Coop began offering standalone broadband while also keeping the Cooperative financially sound enough to continue its investment in advanced fiber networks. However, this came with hundreds of landline loses.

"We began offering standalone broadband on July 15, and many members are now taking the opportunity to save money by removing their landline or upgrading to faster broadband with no increase to their monthly bill," said Hale. "The number of members we serve was already increasing with our fiber deployment, but that growth has accelerated with this new offering. We will continue to offer landline phone service, and we plan to upgrade our landline offerings in the future for those that appreciate the value and reliability that landline phones offer. Today, we are approaching 1,000 total members that have signed up for standalone broadband, and about 75 percent of these members reside in Logan County."

Judge-Executive Logan Chick says he has been concerned about the decrease for some time now. What was once the largest funding source for the county's Emergency Communication Center (ECC-911), the county will now have to start looking at other avenues to generate money to help off-set what they once had.

"When I was first elected to office in 2007, landlines brought in approximately $253,000 which served as the largest source of funding for the Emergency Communication Center. Last year, landlines brought in $148,000," said Chick.

With a 911 budget of $1,249,483 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, that decreased number is scary for many including Ginger Lawrence, Director for the Emergency Communications Center.

"This surcharge was the majority of our funding when the 911 center began in 1999," said Lawrence. "Since then, the number of landlines has decreased yearly but the surcharge has not and now people are dropping their landlines which is causing an even bigger issue. I feel like we are going to have to do something soon. It is getting to the point where it costs more to run the department. There are increased equipment costs, as well as trying to stay competitive with salaries or we risk losing employees who we have invested time and money in to train."

There is a $1 surcharge on wireless (cell phones), however, those funds are collected at the federal level. The state then disperses 50 percent between 120 counties with the other 50 percent going to Homeland Security.

Judge Chick says the county has been able to absorb the decreased revenue from landlines so far out of the general fund but warns with all of the desires expressed recently from the fiscal court, added with the state's mandates and the loss of road fund money due to gas revenue dropping, he isn't sure how long the reserves will last.

"With all the wants that everyone has, our reserve fund will be deleted quick and that is what the problem is," said Chick.

Some of the projects discussed recently by the fiscal court include building a bigger jail, a new animal shelter, and investing in the county's parks and recreation.

"We have run the county for years without raising taxes," said Chick. "No one wants to talk about raising taxes but everyone wants the stability of calling 911. It is probably one of the most important departments we have. I think we can ride it out another year or so but we are going to have to start looking into it. One good thing about Logan County is we can still pay our bills. There are a whole lot of counties out there that are struggling."

Several counties have moved the landline surcharge to the water meter. Marshall County has moved its surcharge to the electric meter and a few more counties put a rate on the property tax bill.