BUTLER TWP. — Township supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to install township resident Peter Toohil as their new zoning officer.
Toohil, 63, is father to state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, and currently works two part-time jobs as a substitute teacher in the Hazleton Area School District and as an attendant at the Hazleton Airport in Hazle Township.
Whether he continues to help out at the airport or work for the school district is contingent on scheduling needs in the zoning office, he said.
The zoning office is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m until noon, and Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m.
Before moving to Luzerne County, Toohil was an artist and ran an animation studio in Boston, Mass., for 15 years.
For the part-time township job, Toohil is to work between 20 and 25 hours each week with regular morning office hours and time set aside for business travel. He is to be paid $16 per hour and receive no fringe benefits.
He replaces the outgoing officer, James Weber, who recently left the post to take a full-time job in West Pittston.
Township Manager Maryanne Petrilla said 10 people had applied for the position. Six of the 10 lived more than 50 miles from the township, Petrilla said. Proximity was important to effectively do the job, she said.
Petrilla could not share names of the other applicants.
Toohil, who has lived in Butler Township for the last 25 years, said he plans to meet with former zoning officer Larry Sims to learn the ropes of the business.
“There’s plenty of paperwork that I’m going to have to go through and review and give myself a better feel for what people have done in the past,” Toohil said.
Toohil was under the spotlight last February when Ransom Young, a former Butler Township supervisor and candidate for state legislature running against Tarah Toohil, announced Peter Toohil was two years delinquent in paying property taxes, and his land was up for sheriff sale.
Toohil explained he was unemployed two years ago and fell behind on his tax payments. He has since started a payment plan with Northeast Revenue Service, Luzerne County’s tax collection bureau. His property was removed from the tax sale list and a claims officer at Northeast Revenue confirmed he is making payments.
“That was political fodder for my daughter’s opponent more than anything,” Toohil said.
Young eventually publicly apologized to Peter and his wife, Barbara.
The supervisors’ chairman, Brian Kisenwether, said the tax issue has little to do with Toohil’s ability to effectively do his job.
“What does that have to do with being hired?” Kisenwether said. “It sounds like he’s doing his (due) diligence.”
Toohil said he derives his experience from owning a home for the last 25 years in the township and an extensive homebuilding project he completed with a colleague. Though admittedly he does not have much experience in the building trades or local government, he said he considers himself service-oriented and willing to learn the skills needed for the job.
When asked if his daughter’s position as a state representative helped sway the board’s decision, he replied saying he believes he is a people person raised from childhood with a “service kind of mentality.”
“I was able to apply that up here at the airport,” Toohil said. “I’m really hoping I can do the same thing (as zoning officer).”