Neptune Beach City Manager fired after ‘big green monster’ concerns

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. — Neptune Beach City Council voted unanimously to fire its city manager, Stefen Wynn, Tuesday night after neighbors’ concerns about what they called the “big green monster”.

A water tank that towers 29 feet and holds 181,000 gallons of water sits behind some homes on Cherry Street. The developer said it’s to supply enough pressure for the fire sprinklers at a nearby development in the old Kmart plaza on Atlantic Boulevard.

“It’s obviously concerning when you start thinking about it. I walk out the door every day and this is what I see,” Susan Cicchino, who lives on Cherry Street, said.

She emailed council members about the water tower after it went up on Dec. 8, 2022, on the other side of her backyard with no notice to neighbors.

Council members also said they were not made aware that it would be built.

“We weren’t working together on it. We should’ve been working together on it,” said Mayor Elaine Brown. “Something like that — had it been shown to us what this was going to look like and how big it was; there would’ve been huge red flags about it.”

Brown said communication from Wynn about the water tower was difficult to follow. She read several emails at Tuesday night’s special council meeting.

On June 24, 2022, Wynn wrote to the city’s former community development director about the green color of the tank and asked for the elevation.

On June 27, 2022, she responded to Wynn stating “This is the only plan we have showing the placement of the tank. There is no southern elevation drawing...the internal diameter of the tank is 33′ with a 29′ height. It holds 181,000 gallons.”

On Dec. 9, 2022, a day after the tank was put up, Wynn wrote council members saying, “While I knew about the need for a water tank to meet fire sprinkler requirements, it was my understanding it would be closer to the building. The first time I have seen a site plan for Publix was today.”

Mayor Brown said there were other emails to Wynn regarding the site plans including specifics about the tank dating back to May 2022.

“Some neglect was there and that was sad to see. The emails were eye-openers that we should have much, much sooner done something about this,” Brown told Action News Jax’s, Robert Grant.

Brown said the city is working with the developer to remove the “green monster” and replace it with two 15′-high tanks farther from the neighboring homes.

“Two 15-foot ones — I’m still going to see it. But it won’t be as bad. Our preference is it needs to go,” said Cicchino. She wanted the city to look into the root cause behind the poor water pressure at the development.

Wynn was at Tuesday’s meeting but did not offer a comment. He did tell Action News Jax Wednesday, “Over the last 3 years, I’m proud of the accomplishments of the Neptune Beach team and best of luck to the city’s next leader.”

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