Some city councillors grumbled over a lack of consultation with landlords, but owners of 250 apartment and condominium buildings will have to make their own trash-hauling arrangements starting in 2021.
City Council voted Monday night to stop collecting garbage from multi-family residential properties with five or more units.
Landlords will be given one year's notice to find a new trash collector and adjust their budgets for the new refuse reality.
Susan Hamilton Beach, the city's director of public works, brought the idea to City Council, saying it will affect 250 properties but will save taxpayers $130,000 a year.
Hamilton Beach argued that municipalities have no obligation to pick up garbage from multi-residential buildings and no other large municipality in northern Ontario does what Sault Ste. Marie does.
Instead of a reduction in service, she painted the new arrangement as correcting an "elevated level of service."
Ward 4 Coun. Marchy Bruni was critical that affected landlords weren't consulted about the idea, but Ward 3's Matthew Shoemaker applauded Hamilton Beach for coming up with the idea.
"No one's ever going to be happy with a reduced service level," Shoemaker said, "but also, no one's going to be happy with an increase in costs on the levy."
"We ask staff all the time to find efficiencies. This is one that they've looked at and said none of our other comparator municipalities are doing it."
"We tell them to bring us best practices, constantly. This is one example of them doing so. I think it's a very responsible report that they've brought forward, with lots of notice ahead of time so that people can make the proper adjustments," Shoemaker said.
Mayor Christian Provenzano agreed.
"We're always asking staff to help us bring the levy down, to find efficiencies," the mayor said.
"In this case, they've found a service level that we're providing that isn't consistent across the province."
Provenzano said the city's current practice creates an inequity because a lot of commercial building owners aren't treated the same way.
"It's going to hurt and people are going to be a little annoyed, but in the broader scheme of things, it seems like it's the right thing to do."
Asked if the change might lead to more trash accumulation and rats, Hamilton Beach said that would be a matter for property standards enforcement.