Emotions ran high during the public comment period of the Kanab City Council meeting on July 9, resulting in the arrest of one person and another one storming out of the meeting in frustration.

About 250 people attended the meeting held in the city library to comment on plans by the city to lease 600 acre feet of its water to a company that wants to mine sand north of town on state trust land, wash it, sort the grains, then ship it by truck to be used in hydraulic-fracking operations in northeastern Utah oil fields.

Many at the meeting were hoping their comments would discourage council members from entering into the lease, believing the plant’s location would be a bad fit for the scenic area and pose a threat to future culinary water supply and quality. They were also concerned about traffic congestion and safety issues arising from sand hauling trucks on popular U.S. Highway 89 that runs through Kanab.

The meeting fracas began over position in the line of two speakers waiting to comment last on the proposal, which was eventually approved by the council on an unanimous vote.

It involved local tour guide Will James, who opposes the project, and  Mike Noel, the area’s former state representative and head of the Kane County Water Conservancy District, who strongly supports the project and whose agency has agreed to also lease 600 acre feet of water to the company building the plant.

James said at one point he left the meeting briefly, and when he returned, was standing behind Noel. It was shortly after that that James said Noel nonchalantly moved behind him.

“He was clearly trying to get behind me,” James said. “It was very conniving.”

James said he wanted to make his comments following Noel’s, so he positioned himself behind Noel again, and then Noel got behind him again. “And this childlike game ensued,” James said. “I said, ‘what makes you think your rights supersede mine?’ It was ridiculous.”

He said that was when Noel turned and called him “a total and complete piece of garbage” and the verbal fireworks really began to fly.

The mayor called for order and warned the pair to stop fighting, but James complains that city police officers were on him immediately and escorted him out of the room, denying him the chance to honor the warning.

Once outside, James said police chief Tom Cram told James he had been warned about getting confrontational at past meetings, “So I said, then just arrest me.”

Cram obliged him, turning to an officer and said, “Sure. Book him,” according to James.

James was handcuffed and taken to jail, where he spent the night before posting $1,000 bail.

He has been charged with disrupting a public meeting and with disorderly conduct, both class C misdemeanors. His court appearance was tentatively scheduled for early August.

On Monday, James said he was also served with a court injunction requested by Noel instructing him to stop harassing Noel.

James said he will seek legal council and consider his options

Noel admits that he called James a piece of garbage, but was pushed to anger by James’  constant belligerence at public meetings and feuding and harassment of his wife on Facebook concerning the sand mine project. Accusations that James denies.

Noel said that earlier on the day of the council meeting, James also disrupted a Chamber of Commerce meeting where Noel was a speaker that resulted in James being asked to leave. (James claims he had every right to be at the meeting to express his opinions.)

Noel said after the chamber meeting he attended the council meeting to express a positive view of the sand mining project.

“Most [of the opposition] are getting their information from people like James and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary,” Noel said.

He said the rhetoric opposing the project is inaccurate and he wanted to put the project in its proper perspective, saying ultimately the project would be economically beneficial to the community.

Noel said at the council meeting James was “hooting and hollering and clapping in my ear” and being obnoxious in general.

He complains that every time he tried getting behind James,  James would try to block him.

“I didn’t want to start a fight,” Noel said, adding he left voluntarily after being asked to leave.

When he heard of the charges filed against James, Noel said, “Well good.”