LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County woman is fighting to keep her handicap ramp after being cited by the county for a property violation. Florence Johnson called 8 On Your Side after, she says, struggling to find answers for weeks.
Tonight Johnson, 74, received good news.
Her ramp ramp has given her a new lease on life. It helps the disabled woman get around on her electric scooter.
“The ramp is perfect. I can go and do my laundry. I take my cart and go over to the Publix,” Johnson said.
It started when a yellow sign showed up in her front yard, marking her mobile home with a code violation. Polk County Code Enforcement received a complaint about the ramp, which was built without a permit, and warned the trailer park owners they would be fined for noncompliance.
“I’s been such a big hassle, and nobody seemed to want to explain things to me. I’m 74,” Johnson said, in tears.
Volunteers from Volunteers in Service to the Elderly, or VISTE, a Lakeland nonprofit, installed the ramp free of charge. The president of the organization said they covered their bases. The trailer park gave them permission.
“These are generally perceived to be temporary structures. We’ve been building ramps for many years. This is the first time that we’ve had any issue come up about a permit,” VISTE President Steve Bissonnette said.
The City of Lakeland doesn’t require permits for these ramps. But, the problem is, the mobile home is technically outside of the city, and Polk County requires a permit.
“The ramp was built without a permit. Apparently a complaint was filed by someone living in her community,” Chandra Frederick with the Polk County Building Division said.
Frederick said the county planned to help Johnson get everything sorted out.
“Absolutely, and we are going to address this issue so we know exactly what our processes are going to be for the future for permits for seniors,” Frederick said.
She said code enforcement is also looking into waiving the fees for the violation.