City of Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun was ready to dole out a substantial fine to a homeowner that has repeatedly failed to upkeep a residence.
Then Barbara Johnson caught the third-term mayor off guard.
Johnson owns the residence at 305 Sunset Drive that the Board of Works has received numerous complaints on over the years. The site has quite literally been a nuisance.
Johnson heeded her summons to appear Tuesday morning at City Hall to discuss her living situation with the Board Works, which includes DeBaun, David Finkel and Bob Williams.
She explained how she is now alone in the house and struggles with discarding items no longer of value or need.
“It’s a disease. I know,” said Johnson. “You used to be able to take a white glove to my house. Since my husband died I’ve become a hoarder. I’m just alone. It’s a disease. I know it.”
Johnson stated she was embarrassed having to come before the board and that caused DeBaun to change his posture.
Fire chief Tony Logan, who regularly attends the Board of Works meetings, offered up a solution.
The city has a community advocate that could offer multiple ways of assistance for a resident struggling through life.
“That might be the first time ever, and I’ve been doing this as the code enforcement guy and as mayor for 28 years, that someone came to the podium and admitted they had a hoarding problem and asked for help,” said DeBaun Tuesday morning after the meeting.
Emily Larrison is the city’s Community Advocate and Logan met with Johnson to exchange contact information.
“(Johnson) mentioned depression so I hope Emily can hook her up with some mental health resources,” said DeBaun.
The mayor also wanted to contact Shelby Senior Services to see if that organization could also offer Johnson some assistance.
DeBaun recalled when Johnson’s husband appeared before the Board of Works several years earlier and mentioned there were additional people at the house contributing to the mess.
Johnson stated Tuesday that those people are gone and mentioned they left her in a worse position.
“They took me for everything I had,” she said.
The board opted to continue the case for another two weeks to see what progress could be made to help Johnson.
“I know sometimes people don’t look at government or the city as a resource but we do have that ability to connect,” said DeBaun.