With winter on its way, face masks littering the streets and rapidly escalating concerns about downtown safety, the issue of trash removal is becoming a bone of contention between the city and Queen Street businesses.
"You walk around and you see masks everywhere. That's a health concern," says Paul Mason, a director of the Downtown Association.
"We have a long downtown. Coffee cups, poo bags everywhere. It's not inviting."
"If you want to have people downtown, you want to have clean, all year round," Mason told the Downtown Association's monthly meeting on Oct. 14.
The meeting was told by the association's acting manager, Ashlyn McMillan, that the large city garbage receptacles are removed for the winter months.
The only cans available are small black receptacles hung by Sault Transit on Queen Street bus shelters or on nearby posts.
There's only six of them, approximately one per block, and they're all on one side of the street, McMillan said.
They're much smaller than the freestanding public works containers, not a great deal larger than the waste basket that office workers used to have under their desks.
"I worry that it's not enough. We have such a high volume of trash in the winter," McMillan said.
"I would love to see at least one more can on the other side of the street, at minimum."
"I did call Blind River, Elliott Lake, Wawa and Sudbury, and the only place that brought their cans in was Wawa. Every other municipality leaves their garbage cans out all winter."
"I personally don't think it's enough because the other side of the street has nothing," she said.
Paul Mason pointed out that the Downtown Association's boundaries stretch 1.5 kilometres from Pim Street to Dennis.
"Six garbage cans... is not nearly enough. It's not a good idea to have garbage cans on one side of the street."
"The absolute bare minimum is one can per side per block."
"A good start is two cans per side per block. Three is ideal," Mason told the meeting.
"Nothing greedy here. I called around all Ontario. People laugh at me when I tell them how many garbage cans we have downtown.
"It's kind of embarrassing to only have six small black cans that you can't really see. Paint them a bright yellow or orange so people can see where they are."
Susan Hamilton Beach, the city's director of public works, tells SooToday that the winter prohibition against overnight parking on city streets comes into effect this weekend, and trash receptacles downtown, in local parks and on the Hub Trail will not longer be used because her staff must shift its focus to snow removal.
Brent Lamming, director of community services responsible for Sault Transit, says there were just five small receptacles on Queen Street last year.
Three new ones have been added this year, Lamming said, including one in front of the courthouse.
The Downtown Association is pushing the city's public works department to restore winter trash collection by public works staff.
Kristi Cistaro, the association's chair, figures core-area businesses can make a good case.
"They're not taking away the parking meters for the winter," she says.