Fighting for You: Church Congregation Wants Its Sign Installed As Promised

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TONEY, Ala. (WHNT) - We've all seen signs outside of churches delivering messages throughout the week. One Tennessee Valley church is wanting to send a different message to a sign company: Finish the job!

Liesa Johnston emailed WHNT NEWS 19 after she paid for work that hasn't been completed. Johnston entered into a contract last summer with a business to install a church sign. She paid half up front and was expected to pay the rest upon completion. The project is now more than three months overdue.

Drivers used to be able to get an idea of what goes on inside the Friendship Church of Christ until a car took out the church sign earlier in the year. Members of the Toney church called upon Johnston for help. Johnston's construction company would find a company to create and install a new church sign. Johnston's company would handle the underground wiring.

"We paid our money to start with and entered into the agreement with Nationwide Sign. I have repeatedly called the owner over the last month," said Johnston.

Johnston showed WHNT NEWS 19 a purchase order made with Nationwide Sign backing up her claim. She paid a deposit of $3,010. Johnston also gave WHNT NEWS 19 a stub showing Nationwide Sign cashed her check. After the payment, Johnston expected the sign to be installed in August.

"The owner has half of our money and we have no sign. I think a 3.5 month period is long enough for anyone to complete a job when you are told it would take a two weeks lead time," said Johnston.

"He" is Bill Septer. Septer owns Nationwide Sign. Johnston says Septer has only greeted her with excuse after excuse. The latest hit her cell phone's voicemail November 2, 2012.

Johnston played a message from her cellphone's voicemail. The message was, "Yeah, this is Bill Septer with Nationwide Sign. It is about 8:15 on Friday morning. I've obtained permits for the church out in Toney. We will be installing the sign this weekend. We obtained a permit about 2:15 in the afternoon."

"At this point, I think he is a con artist. I think he took our money and ran with it. I want that sign installed as we contracted. I want that sign installed and I wanted it like yesterday," said Johnston.

WHNT NEWS 19 called the Septer on Monday. He told WHNT NEWS 19 equipment issues caused installation delays, but the sign would be delivered Tuesday. WHNT NEWS 19 greeted him at the church on Tuesday.

"I'm Venton Blandin with WHNT NEWS 19," said our reporter. "I see you have the sign here," added Blandin.

Septer added, "Yeah. The preacher is on his way to get his backhoe to help dig the hole for us."

Blandin asked, "Why is it just now getting here?"

Septer replied, "We had some mechanical problems and because we are small business struggling trying to get back on our feet."

Johnston doesn't believe it.

Blandin asked, "Would you have done this if I had not called you?"

"We would have been here today. We were on our way last week when we broke down," added Septer.

WHNT NEWS 19's efforts are paying off.

"I'm very happy you got involved because I don`t think that he would be working on it today had you not confronted him," added Johnston.

Johnston took the right steps in this situation. She reported her problem to the Better Business Bureau. As of November 13, 2012, Septer has not responded to the BBB's inquiry. Work on the sign is happening now, but is not complete. WHNT NEWS 19 will stay on top of the story to make sure the sign is working.

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