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NEXUS questions prompt change at auditor's office

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The Medina County Auditor’s Office has changed the county’s easement transfer procedure so that all future easements will come through it for payment of state-mandated fees.

“Previously, they were not always brought to the auditor’s office,” Auditor Mike Kovack told The Gazette this week. “They were recorded in the recorder’s office but didn’t always come through us.”

The change is significant because, like several nearby counties, Medina recently investigated allegations that a company planning to build a natural gas pipeline through the county has not been paying a state-mandated transfer fee on property acquired from local landowners.

Houston-based Spectra Energy said it hasn’t paid fees for some easements because the parcels are worth less than $1,000.

Spectra is a partner with DTE Energy in the proposed NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline, which would travel 255 miles from eastern Ohio through 12 counties including Medina and Lorain to deliver natural gas to a hub in Canada.

Several county auditors have said they are questioning valuations and redoubling efforts to collect the revenue. Summit County Auditor Lee Ann Shaffer discovered the discrepancy in her county last year.

Section 319.54 of the Ohio Revised Code requires entities receiving property worth more than $1,000 to pay a

1 percent conveyance fee to the state and up to 3 percent to the county to compensate for auditors’ services. Medina County charges

2 percent on such services, which include transfer of a home at purchase or in bequeathing situations.

Kovack said the company has not paid the fees on approximately 60 easements. “A spreadsheet has been presented to NEXUS,” he said.

Medina civil prosecutor Mike Lyons said he has “clarified the need to comply and pay the fees” with the company’s attorneys. “They have told us of their plans to bring things into compliance,” he told The Gazette this week.

Neither official had an estimate for the back payments that must be made by NEXUS, but Kovack said a tally would be available once the payments were made.

Spectra Energy spokesman Adam Parker told The Gazette the company “continues to work with county officials to address any outstanding matters.”

Contact reporter Marina Malenic at (330) 721-4063 or nmalenic@medina-gazette.com.



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