By Emily Turner

ST HELENA (KPIX 5) – Homeowners in St. Helena are demanding answers about water rate hikes. They claim big wineries aren’t paying their fair share.

“All we want is answers to the questions of why you’re screwing the citizens of St. Helena,” said Anthony Micheli, president of Citizens for Responsible Winery Growth.

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That’s a question that Micheli has been asking the city for months, filed a lawsuit over, and is hoping will finally be addressed at the town hall meeting Monday night.

“We don’t understand it,” Micheli said.

The topic: water woes.

A group of locals has banded together against rate hikes and accuses the utility of a lack of transparency.

On Monday night, they hope to hold City Hall accountable.

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“It’s not fair what they’ve done with this rate hike,” said Micheli. “They have put it to the citizens of St. Helena.”

Tom Belt, a concerned resident said, “Since 2000, our rates — if you were to compound the rates together — have gone up 739 percent.”

Meanwhile, the rates of big users like wineries, Belt says, are still a secret.

“Residents are subsidizing other customers and according to Prop 218, it’s against the law now,” said Belt.

They use hundreds of millions of gallons of water making wine. But Belt’s lawsuit accuses them of paying a fraction of what local homeowners do. The buck stops with the city, who runs the utility.

But Mayor Alan Galbraith refused an interview with us ahead of Monday’s meeting.

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There is a recall effort for the Mayor and the folks that wanted to recall him have agreed to hold that movement if he agreed to these town hall meetings addressing their concerns.