Blount County man waited months for gate, construction falls apart
by: Don Dare
Posted: Mar 7, 2023 / 06:25 PM EST
Updated: Mar 7, 2023 / 06:25 PM EST
ROANE COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Two neighbors in Roane County continue to wait on a fabricator who took their money for a metal fence but never built it. Another former customer who hired the same contractor has learned new information about him, the man has a criminal record.
Customers have been filing complaints about Faith Custom Design for two years. Better Business Bureau records show that issues started in 2021. Over the last several weeks, several people have called WATE's Don Dare saying they paid half down to have their fence built, but the contractor never showed up.
After waiting months and months, another former customer did eventually get his fence, but it fell apart.
The automatic steel security gate in front of Rob Cunningham's property in Blount County is an attractive feature, but the story behind it is not. Up on the hill, construction on Cunningham's new home is nearly finished.
He said the gate and the fabricator who built it, the 16-month delay plus the $5,000 payment "just about did him in."
"When this gate was originally put on, I had to pay to rework it. All this, you can just see where this tack weld, it was tack welded and the gate fell off," Cunningham said.
Tack welds are small, temporary welds that hold parts together ready for final welding. Tack welds are not meant to hold parts together permanently.
"So I had to hire a local welder to come out. The gate physically fell off on the ground, both of them did," Cunningham said.
Cunningham added every gate piece was tack welded when the fence was finally put up.
"So this is supposed to be a security gate. You can get right through this, the wind will blow this out," he said as he kicks the blocks from the gate onto the ground.
In the middle, where the gates are joined, there was another construction issue.
"The gate has always been in a bind until we completely reworked it. You can see the mark right here. So in the summertime, when the metal gets hot and expands, this gate will get in a bind and it won't open. We think we’ve corrected that. We don't know yet," Cunningham said.
The company that worked on the gate is Faith Custom Design out of Athens, Tenn. The fabricator is Christian Needham, who is a convicted felon, according to court records.
In 2014, Needham pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and aggravated burglary and was sentenced to probation. In 2019, he lost his appeal for violating probation and was ordered to serve the rest of his six-year sentence.
Paul Manning hired Needham in June 2021 to build a custom metal fence along the side of his house. Mary, who's a widow, paid Needham in advance to install railings down her front porch. Both Mary and Manning paid half the bill upfront to buy materials, so they were told. In December 2021 Needham told us, Mary's railings were ready to go and he told her the same thing a month earlier.
"On November the 18th, he said, ‘I’m on my way. I am coming with the handrails,’ but he did not appear," Mary said.
Needham never delivered the handrails for Mary. He never put up that fence for Manning either.
"It's the same exact scenario, he takes your money then you don't hear from him," Cunningham said.
Cunningham has done his own investigation. He has discovered Needham has taken advances from many unsuspecting customers only never to finish the job.
"It would be different if it was me or one other person, but it's countless people and a multi-state scenario," Cunningham said.
WATE called Needham and left a message, but he has not returned our call. His former customers tell us Needham required half down in order to purchase material. Contractors do not require 50 percent in advance, but Needham does.
Some of those who spoke with WATE said they filed complaints to the state Attorney General's office about the way Needham operates his business dealings.
The Better Business Bureau grade is an F for Faith Custom Design.
"He's gotta be stopped. He has to be stopped," Cunningham said.
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