Three members of Hannibal’s building inspector’s staff abandoned their trucks recently and instead took a walk through a residential area along two streets. By the time Joey Burnham, Chuck Anderson and Susan Osterhout got back to city hall, a list of 22 code violations had been compiled from the 66 properties they’d seen.
“I couldn’t believe it. It’s crazy,” said Burnham, building inspector, of the number of violations that were identified.
“Some were major and some were pretty minor,” said Anderson, assistant building inspector. “The major ones were decks and porches that need to be repaired. The minor ones were like having holes in the soffit, a porch needing to be repainted and a chimney that needs tuckpointing.”
The most curious violation noticed by Burnham was on Fifth Street, where the back yard of a residence was covered in carpet.
“They’ll be getting a letter on that,” he said.
Code violation letters are not being sent out all at once.
“Can you imagine the phone calls we would have gotten if we’d have sent them (letters of violation) all out at once?” asked Anderson.
In most cases, property owners will have 30 days to make the necessary repairs or make arrangements to have the repairs done.
What happens if violations are not dealt with within a month’s time?
“For the ones that are unsafe, city ordinance says we could fix it ourselves and then tack the cost onto their taxes. But we don’t have the money to do that. We could take the person to court for their code violation,” said Anderson. “I’m sure folks in town won’t like it because they’ll have to spend a little bit of money, but that’s the territory of being a homeowner or landlord. We’re just following the building code.”
In addition to code violations, the inspectors also discovered a house in the 400 block of Rock Street whose dire condition had not been noted previously.
“The porch is gone. Inside there’s no floor; you can see all the way to the foundation. There are also some holes in the roof,” said Anderson.
“That one needs to be demolished,” said Burnham. “It was kind of hidden by a couple of trees in the front so you couldn’t see it when you drove by.”
Burnham got the idea to walk instead of drive through a neighborhood while looking for violations during a walk with his wife.
“I couldn’t believe the stuff I was seeing,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - “When you drive by you can miss some things. A foundation that is cracking you might not see,” said Anderson. “We’re trying to get more proactive than reactive.”
The recent walk was the first of what could be many strolls.
“I’d like to see us do it once every two weeks, or something like that,” said Burnham.
“Ideally, we want to do the whole city,” said Anderson. “The next time the three of us will probably go our separate ways so we can cover more territory.”