You have to hand it to the good people of Billings, they certainly know a pig wearing lipstick when they see one.
Just like the good people of Tacoma and Ephrata, Wash., before them, the residents of Montana’s largest city have gained some real first-hand experience with the ever-shifting Abraham Hengyucius. You’ll recall that Mr. Hengyucius has a relationship with the former American Tire Corp., the erstwhile Washington Tire Corp. and the still-active Colorado Tire Corp.
If you’d like a bit more background on the gentleman, simply search “Abraham Hengyucius” on the Tire Review website.
While still apparently untangling the hash he and his “company” made of trying to build a billion-dollar tire plant in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Hengyucius decided to get into the real estate business. In July 2013, his Colorado Tire Corp. won an online auction and paid $3.275 million for the long-abandoned and asbestos-ridden James F. Battin Federal Courthouse in downtown Billings.
The plan, as revealed on the Colorado Tire Corp. website, was to fix up the place and rent out the office space.
Without recounting the numerous uncompleted upgrades and missed vows, two years later the good people are wondering aloud if the now renamed Kono Building might be better off imploded and hauled away to make space for something useful.
As you’ll read in the May 31 story “Empty Federal Building a ‘Big White Elephant Sitting Downtown’” by Billings Gazette reporter Chris Cioffi, not only is the building structural questionable, but its ownership is seen as equally shaky.
Here’s the start of the Gazette’s story. You can read the whole epic here:
It’s been two years since the James F. Battin Federal Building was sold to the Colorado Tire Corp., and fears are mounting the still mostly empty building could become a costly liability for Yellowstone County.
“We’ve got a big white elephant sitting downtown,” said Marty Connell, president of Kairos Development, which recently rehabilitated the former Pierce Packing property.
The 220,000-square-foot, five-story building was sold to Colorado Tire for $3.275 million by the federal General Services Administration in May 2013.
The building has been renamed the Kono Building. A City of Billings business tax receipt lists Colorado Tire as owner of Kono Corp.
Kono officials declined to specifically answer The Gazette’s questions about ownership of the building.
After the sale was complete the new owner quickly fell into tax delinquency. The company’s tax debt was bought by a third-party investor, HG Partners of Joliet, which put a lien on the building, said Yellowstone County Treasurer Sherry Long.
Colorado Tire reimbursed the investor in October 2014, paying more than $46,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties. But, as of Friday at 5 p.m., the company had paid no further taxes, according to the Treasurer’s office.
On Nov. 30, 2014, the company owed $98,000, and by June 1 it could owe about $205,000, the treasurer said.
When asked about its outstanding taxes, Kono’s public relations department responded with this statement: “It is very common in the U.S. for a business or individual to have tax liabilities here and there.”
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Funny story about those consumer magazine tire tests.
Sometimes, comparative tire tests conducted by enthusiast publications around the world result in some real head-shaking rankings. Most of these are true head-to-head comparisons, but rarely are true professional engineers or test drivers engaged to conduct these exercises.
Still, an experienced magazine writer who has logged hours on test tracks and behind the wheel of a wide range of vehicles should be competent enough to offer at least some performance guidance to novice tire searchers.
In April, our friends at Tyres & Accessories related the surprise results by German magazine Auto und Sachen, which put nine tires by European and Asian makers to the test, rating them on wet and dry traction and braking as well as environmental performance. It was a blind test, so the brand and model names were buffed from the sidewalls and tires were identified only by a number.
Easy enough, right? Nine 205/55R16 radials were tested on a VW Golf. Except that one tire – reportedly a “highly regarded product from a top five manufacturer” – was tested twice. Apparently the numbers”1” and “7” were confused, leading to the inadvertent double test.
Compounding the mess – and making this truly comical – the double-tested tire finished both first and last in the review.
“During its initial evaluation the tire was described as providing ‘exceptional performance in the wet and dry, safe cornering and low rolling resistance,’” wrote T&A, “and was rated ‘highly recommended.’ Yet upon returning to the track later in the day, testers found the same tire to be ‘indifferent on dry road surfaces and a weak wet weather performer, particularly when braking.’ Rolling resistance was, the testers added, ‘lumpy.’ The formerly ‘highly recommended’ tire was rated ‘inadequate.’”
The test results have not been scheduled to be published, pending “a full review.” T&A said a highly placed insider suggested that the vast test result swing might have been due to shoes. Not tires, often referred to as “shoes,” but rather driving shoes. The test driver apparently switched from one pair of driving shows that had a “distinctly premium feel,” while the second pair were “budget shoes” produced in China.
Remember, they were talking about the shoes, not the tires.
Ironically, Auto und Sachen published a comparative evaluation of driving shoes in its April 2015 issue. Wonder if they changed tires for that one!