Hannibal man starts one-man cleanup campaign
A light rain didn’t deter Robert Burditt Thursday morning from his work in the 100 block of North Third Street. The Hannibal man was using his leaf blower to blast pieces of dirt and gravel from the busy street’s parking lane into the southbound traffic lane.
Burditt’s efforts were part of his one-man campaign to clean the sidewalks and parking areas along the busy downtown thoroughfare.
“I’m just doing what I can do,” he said. “I’ve had people offer to help me. Most of them can’t help me right then, but whenever they can they do what they can do... It just tickles me to death. It impresses me a lot when people do something and not just say they think it’s a good idea.”
The disabled military veteran actually began his cleanup around 6 a.m. Wednesday in the 200 block of North Third Street, where he estimates he spent eight hours breaking ice in front of the Becky Thatcher Restaurant and shoveling it into the street.
“There was a lot of heavy ice up there,” he said. “My back is killing me. What I did yesterday was very painful. At 2 o’clock I had to go home and rest.”
Wednesday’s focus was motivated by something other than appearance.
“It was just for safety issues, walking into the Becky Thatcher. A lot of handicapped people go in up there and I don’t want to see anybody get hurt,” said Burditt, who spent a portion of his day breaking up ice in the west parking lane and tossing it into the street, where it was crushed by passing traffic.
City hall trip
Before launching his cleanup crusade Burditt went to city hall.
“I got cooperation,” he said. “They called the Street Department to find out who to contact at MoDOT to have the streets cleaned. I thought that was very gracious of them to react the same day I made the complaint. I know they’re very busy up there.”
While a street sweeper was busy on Third Street Wednesday morning, it couldn’t reach all that Burditt wanted cleaned.
“Unfortunately, they do not clean sidewalks and so I started cleaning the sidewalks,” he said.
Among those applauding Burditt’s efforts was Susan Osterhout, a property maintenance inspector with the city.
“What he’s doing is very commendable. It’s a public service,” she said. “If there were a dozen more doing the same thing, downtown would look much better.”
Osterhout did say that by blowing the debris into the street Burditt is violating a city ordinance that prohibits “blowing, pushing or dumping” debris into a street.
“I would prefer what he’s blowing out in the street would instead be picked up,” said the inspector, who indicated she has no plans to issue Burditt a citation. “It’s hard to tell somebody not to do something when all they’re trying to do is help.”
Although Burditt might alter his cleanup methods in the future, he won’t change his objective.
“Since 1987 I’ve been trying to clean up Hannibal,” he said. “It’s been my heart’s desire for many years.”