LEMOORE – Lemoore officials are backing off a written statement issued earlier this week that indicated that the only way residents can pay utility bills online is through the city's official website, www.lemoore.com.
The statement, issued on Wednesday, told residents that DOXO, an unaffiliated private online filing service and bill payment service, "is not approved by the city for online payment of utility bills."
That prompted several published media reports suggesting that DOXO was a scam.
Lemoore officials are now acknowledging that the company appears to be legitimate, but they are still recommending that customers who want to pay their water, sewer and trash bills online do so directly at www.lemoore.com because there is no charge.
Heather Corder, Lemoore's chief financial officer, apologized in an interview for any misunderstanding Wednesday's written statement created.
"I didn't want customers to believe that [DOXO] was our online payment system," Corder said. "I was afraid they would be confused, so I wanted to clarify that this wasn't Lemoore's site."
Corder said she sent out the statement after receiving a call from Lemoore City Attorney Jenell Van Bindsbergen in which Van Bindsbergen suggested there might be some confusion.
Corder said customers can pay using DOXO, but that DOXO may charge them a fee.
"It's unfortunate the way it got handled," said Roger Parks, co-founder of Seattle-based DOXO.
Parks said local DOXO users may or may not be charged a fee depending on a variety of factors. He said the main way the company gets its money is through fees charged to billers who contract with DOXO to make DOXO their official online payment provider.
Lemoore doesn't charge utility bill payers who go through www.lemoore.com.
Parks said that approximately 80 people have been paying their Lemoore utility bills through DOXO, some doing so as far back as June 2015. Parks said he's not aware of any problems.
"I would have heard from my customers by now if it wasn't working," Parks said. "How [Lemoore leaders] came across it and freaked out about it, I don't know."
Parks said has had similar experiences with a "handful" of other municipalities who initially were suspicious to have DOXO involved in utility bill payments.
He said he was able to clear up the misunderstandings.
"When I can engage with a company, it's very explainable what we do," he said.
As many as 54 Hanford residents may be paying their local utility bills through DOXO, according to www.doxo.com.
Hanford information technology manager Eric Forcey said he hasn't heard of any issues.
"I don't recall it ever coming up," he said. "I don't know what the issue would be, why we wouldn't accept that."
Lemoore added its online bill pay feature to the city's website earlier this summer.