Emails suggest coal ash shipments may have been scheduled before Osceola County approved deal

Video: 9 Investigates: A major update on the Osceola County coal ash controversy

ST. CLOUD, Fla. — New emails suggest shipments of controversial coal ash to a St. Cloud landfill may have already been scheduled before county leaders rushed through the approval to dump the waste.

On Friday, protesters gathered outside the landfill, shouting things like “No ash in our trash” as truckload after truckload was brought in.

The same group showed up at a county meeting Monday to voice their concerns over how the decision to bring in the ash from Puerto Rico was handled.

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The emails show county and Waste Connections, which owns the landfill, in a rush.

The emails begin on March 26 with Waste Connections Vice President Damian Ribar writing to county leaders, saying the “timetable has stepped up considerably.”

Two days later, one of Osceola County’s lawyers has an agreement drawn up and ready to go, which he sent to all involved at the time “because of the schedule.”

The lawyer mentions shipments already scheduled to begin four days later on April 1, the same day as an Osceola County Commission meeting.

Ribar replied hours later, thanking county leaders for their quick turnaround.

Four hours before the April 1 meeting started, Deputy County Manager Beth Knight emailed the public works director, asking her to make a cover sheet so the coal ash deal could go up for a quick vote.

The first and final public advisory regarding the agreement shows it was last modified at 2:21 p.m. that day, a full 51 minutes after the meeting started.

An Osceola County spokesperson released the following statement:

“In preparing for BCC meetings, county staff works diligently to facilitate business and public policy options for consideration by the Board of County Commissioners – some items develop over time, and some require a more expeditious process. Such was the case with the Waste Connections request. These emails document that staff process, including the email to the public works director requesting an agenda cover sheet.”

The county did not respond to questions about why the issue required quick action.

Ribar did not return requests for comment.