NEW CARLISLE, Ind. -- Half the year, conversations in this small northern Indiana community are filled with references to school time and town time, fast time and slow time, Chicago time and Michigan time.
Starting April 2, the distinctions will be year-round, courtesy of a U.S. Department of Transportation ruling that will keep St. Joseph County on Eastern time when Indiana begins observing statewide daylight-saving time.
"It stinks," Judy Lambert, a waitress at Miller's Home Cafe in the town of about 1,600 residents, said Thursday. "I just wanted us to all be on the same time. What's wrong with the whole state being on one time? It's stupid."
The Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that eight Indiana counties would switch to the Central time zone, joining 10 others that already observe Central time. The DOT also ruled that nine other counties, including St. Joseph County, that had requested a switch from Eastern to Central time would stay on Eastern.
Many in New Carlisle, 15 miles west of South Bend, were unhappy with the decision, saying it made a confusing situation worse.
The town is on Eastern time, but it forms a school district with Rolling Prairie in LaPorte County, which is in the Central time zone. New Prairie United School Corp., which has five schools, stays on Central time, even the elementary school that is in St. Joseph County.
In past years, the two counties were on the same time for the nearly seven months that LaPorte County observed Central Daylight time. Starting April 2, they'll be divided year-round.
"It's terrible. Terrible!" said Lambert, who lives in LaPorte County about three miles -- and one time zone -- from the cafe.
Others said they wished the Legislature, which last year decided to begin observing daylight time, had left things as they were.
"We had a routine going here," said Cindy Miller, who owns the cafe. "Now we're going to have a new routine."
Miller acknowledged people's lives were affected even when they didn't change clocks with the rest of the nation. The local news came on at 11 p.m. in the winter, 10 p.m. on the summer.
"Our life changed even though we never touched the clock," she said. "But we had it down pat. We knew that the schools were an hour later and we just got accustomed to that. Now we're going to have to think about something different."
Steve Ripstra, a lawyer in Jasper -- about an hour from Illinois and an hour from Evansville, both of which are in the Central time zone -- wanted to stay on Eastern time. But Dubois County will switch to Central time.
"It's just nicer to have it lighter later in the day," he said. "It's handier."
St. Joseph County Commissioner Steve Ross, who wanted his county on Central time, said he would wait a year to see how the change affects the county before deciding that to do next.
Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the transportation department, said Thursday the department's decision is final.
However, counties can petition the department for a change at any time. Officials would have to present reasons why the change should occur, and if the department decided their argument was enough to consider a change, it would hold hearings and go through the entire process again.
"They need to show that this meets the criteria for a change," Mosley said.
Not everyone was unhappy with the time zone decision.
Tim Hunt, a home inspector from New Carlisle who lives just east of the county line, said his wife, a school bus driver, might have had her route cut in half if St. Joseph County was put in Central time, which could reduce her income.
"It works out better for her," he said.
Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton said Thursday the DOT took a commonsense approach to the decision.
"It seems to me that the time zone issue is over," he said.
But John F. Gaski, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame, predicted the issue won't fade into the sunset.
"People who support Central time aren't going to let it die," said Gaski, who believes St. Joseph County should be on Central time for both economic reasons and because of people's natural rhythms. "It's just a matter of time."
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