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Boise to increase security in public buildings due to harassment over masks

The city's Human Resources department requested about $300,000 in contingency funds for increased security and a city hall ambassador program.

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise City Council on Tuesday approved funds for additional security at public buildings, where staff have faced harassment due to face mask requirements. 

The city's Human Resources department requested about $300,000 in contingency funds for increased security and a city hall ambassador program. Ambassadors will manage "negative behavior" in the City Hall lobby, where front-facing staff are currently dealing with "confrontational visitors," said a budget memo. 

In addition to City Hall, increased security is needed at libraries and Idaho IceWorld, the city-operated ice rink at Boise Factory Outlets on South Eisenman Road.

"Ice World and Library staff are currently dealing with an increase in verbal harassment around mask compliance from visitors and players/coaches," the memo said. "Employee retention has suffered as a result. These incidents have at times required law enforcement involvement." 

The Boise Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for details regarding such incidents.

Per a public health order, face masks are required in city facilities due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

City Council members unanimously approved the funding request. Councilman T.J. Thomson was absent. 

Councilman Jimmy Hallyburton said he is happy to approve the funds for the sake of staff members, but he is unhappy that the funds are necessary. 

"Our staff members are not the ones who make these policy decisions but yet they are the ones who are forced to suffer the repercussions of people who disagree with them," he said. "That just simply isn't fair. And it's unfortunate that these funds that could be used for something so much more important and so much better are being used because people are simply being unkind to each other." 

The one-time costs will come out of the city's contingency fund. But city staff is exploring whether American Rescue Plan Act funds could be used instead; the city is still awaiting guidance from the federal government on allowable uses for that money. 

More from our partners at the Idaho Press: BOISE STATE STATEMENT: 'WE ARE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN TO MITIGATE THE SPREAD

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