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Library browsing, city offices, lots of masks: How Boise plans to reopen buildings

Boise Public Library
Posted at 2:15 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 16:16:00-04

BOISE, Idaho — This article was written by Hayley Harding of the Idaho Statesman.

Buildings operated by the city of Boise will be open for business again this month.

With the exception of the Boise Airport, many city properties have been closed to the public since March to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Some services have adapted — the library has offered curbside pickup, and the Parks and Recreation Department modified softball games to let people play — but September will mark the first time in nearly six months that the public will be able to walk into almost any city building, although hours may be limited.

Boise City Hall will reopen on Tuesday, Sept. 8, as will City Hall West, the Fort Boise Community Center, Idaho Ice World and a few other spaces. The libraries will reopen for public browsing on Sept. 28. The James Castle House will open Oct. 1.

The reopened spaces might not look quite the same.

WHAT CHANGES ARE COMING TO BOISE’S BUILDINGS?

Masks will be required in most indoor spaces, Kyle Patterson, a data strategist for the city, told the Boise City Council on Tuesday.

The mandates will be enforced at libraries and City Hall by what Patterson called “ambassadors” stationed at front doors. Ambassadors — city employees whose jobs were repurposed during the pandemic — have been used for several months to ask people to respect social distancing.

Those visiting Idaho Ice World will be able to take off their masks while skating, Patterson said, but the coverings will have to go back on “the minute you come off the ice.”

“We will provide accommodations for those that, for reasons known to them from a health perspective, make it impossible to wear a mask,” Mayor Lauren McLean told the council. “That includes a continuation of digital and by-phone services and other gear that our ambassadors will have available.”

Sanitizing stations have been added in many public spaces as well, Patterson said.

Spaces that accommodate the public regularly, such as the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, will have plastic dividers separating the public and employees. There also will be stickers on the floor to mark 6-feet distances.

WHAT WILL I BE ABLE TO DO?

At the library, people will have access, but it will be limited. The main library will offer in-person services, including browsing, from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. At the branch libraries, in-person services will be available from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

All libraries will continue to open at 10 a.m. each day for curbside pickup and computer appointments.

Patterson said the changes at the library would require “a pretty radical departure in service delivery,” which is the reason for extra time before the public will be allowed in. He said the library system would work to fill 16 vacant positions.

Idaho Ice World will offer drop-in programs as well as some learn-to-skate classes for figure skating and hockey.

Participants will be required to sign in, just in case contact tracing needs to be done for COVID-19, Patterson said. The number of skaters will be limited and spread between both sheets of ice, Doug Holloway, director of Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department, told the council.

Fort Boise Community Center will reopen on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The fitness area will be available by appointment only.

There’s no way to know when spaces might be completely open. Previous city plans have shown that can’t happen until Boise is able to exit Stage 4 of the reopening plan, and right now the city, and Ada County, are in a modified version of Stage 3, having gone backward in late June under a Central District Health order.

McLean said she is looking forward to seeing the public in city buildings again.

“We’re recognizing that as a city government, we are here to serve,” McLean said.