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Mask refusals, ‘negative behavior’ in Boise city buildings prompt beefed-up security

Protesters gather in front of Central District Health in January to protest mandated masks and other restrictions in four Idaho counties. The city of Boise will hire security to enforce its own mandate in city buildings.  (Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman)
By Kyle Land Idaho Statesman

It’s been two months since the city of Boise started requiring that masks and face coverings be worn inside all city facilities – and already there’s trouble.

The City Council approved on Tuesday the reallocation of more than $300,000 to hire additional security workers at Boise city libraries, Idaho IceWorld and City Hall, citing a spate of incidents where residents refused to abide by the mask order. Some players and coaches have also refused to wear masks.

Multiple incidents required city staff members to call police officers to assist, a document justifying the reallocation said.

“There is a need for increased security in key city locations due to an increase in observed negative behavior from visitors,” the document states.

The allocation will also establish a City Hall ambassadors program. The idea will be to eliminate public-facing staff from having to interact or discipline those who refuse to wear masks inside the buildings.

Budget Manager Eric Bilimoria told council members that the allocation will be reevaluated before next year’s budget to ensure the need for more security still exists. He also said the city will see if funds from the American Rescue Plan can be used to fund the security.

An Idaho Statesman request to the Boise Police Department for details of mask-related incidents at city buildings is pending.

Mask requirements in Boise have been met with hostility since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Lauren McLean issued an order in 2020 requiring masks be worn in most public places. The order was eventually repealed in May after cases declined.

During the mandate, protests sprang up across the city, including large demonstrations at the State Capitol, where protesters burned masks in defiance of the order.

While COVID-19 cases are spiking across Boise, McLean has not reinstated a citywide mandate. She said the requirement for city buildings was to protect the health of employees.