Washington Tire Walking a Thin, Thin Wire - Tire Review Magazine

Washington Tire Walking a Thin, Thin Wire

You just gotta love public records. Hard for someone notorious for hiding to hide when the government says you just can’t hide.

It appears (again) that all is not as it seems with our man-with-a-plan Abraham Hengyucius and his American/Colorado/Washington Tire Corp.

You’ll recall that Hengyucius made his pitch to the citizens of the Port of Ephrata, Washington, on Jan. 13, outlining his plans for an 18-building, $500 million tire plant that would produce not only giant OTR tires, but also medium truck and passenger units, as well.

His Washington Tire Corp., according to reports, is paying the port $979,000 for about 97 acres of land near the Port of Ephrata airport, and supposedly made a down payment on the property.

As you would expect, all manner of environmental impact studies, etc., are expected when one endeavors to construct a massive complex, particularly a tire plant, which deals in multiple toxic substances from raw materials to finished goods that didn’t get out of QC.

To get through those impact studies, one must have a site plan and environmental plans – details of how it will handle the various substances that will be on the grounds. That requires hiring companies to handle the environmental impact planning and studies.

Well, Washington Tire did just that last fall – then failed the initial environmental plans and failed to pay the contractors, leaving the city on the hook for the bills.

Now, before we proceed (and in all fairness), these issues arose back in October and November 2009, and may well have been cleared up by now. The news reports detailing Hengyucius’ public hearing did not mention either the unpaid bills or the failed environmental plans, though the Port of Ephrata was well aware of the problems.

Some of the environmental plan failures were due to incomplete paperwork. In others, the plans were simply inadequate. No major surprises here, to be sure. Few companies make it through the detail-laden paperwork on the first try, I’m sure.

But after burning a number of environmental contractors by not paying his bills in even a semi-timely basis, one has to question just how Hengyucius will be able to refile his impact plans and studies.

And speaking of not paying bills, a Nov. 20, 2009, letter to Hengyucius from city manager Michael Wren, points to other financial issues:

“Though you did complete your application to the Department of Ecology for your Air Quality Permit, as of the 20th of November, 2009, we have yet to receive any certification from your subcontractors of being paid in full for services WTC hired them to perform at the Port of Ephrata. In fact, we received notice on November 9, 2009, from (name withheld) and on November 18, 2009, from (name withheld) that they were in the process of filing Liens against the Port to recover such fees. Finally, we did not receive any verification that the purchase monies are in escrow.

“WTC continues to be in breach of the Earnest Money Agreement and, by this letter, is hereby notified that the Port of Ephrata is proceeding with all available legal action to: 1. Ensure that WTC pays their consultants to make certain that our property remains unencumbered, 2. Invoking the indemnity and hold harmless provisions of paragraph 16 of the Earnest Money Agreement as appropriate, 3. Terminating the Earnest Money Agreement.”

Wow. So Hengyucius left his contractors holding the bag, and left his “business partner” – the Port of Ephrata – on the hook for the bills. Nice way to start a relationship, eh?

And that wasn’t the first stern letter Hengyucius received from the city. Back on  Oct.13, 2009, city attorney Katherine L. Kenison sent a two-page letter of similar warning.

While that was three months ago, and the issues may well have been cleared up, what does this say about Hengyucius and his way of doing business?

The funny thing is that the money owed the contractors was not a huge amount. Certainly not $500 million, Maybe a few thousand.

How is he going to find anyone to do the actual construction – if it ever gets to that point – given his payment reputation?

There is a ton of detail in the pile of public records I received, some of which will take weeks for me to sort out. Above are the basic highlights, and frankly that should be enough for now.

If Hengyucius has sorted out his plans and studies and invoices – and has not lost his deal with the city – and can pull all of this together and make his plant plans a reality, good for him. Seriously, good for him. No doubt that area of Washington could use a few hundred decent manufacturing jobs.

However, if he can’t, let’s hope he doesn’t take the town, the contractors and the residents of Ephrata down with him.

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