INDIANAPOLIS – Five southwestern Indiana counties that switched to Central time last year would be allowed to move back to Eastern time this fall under a proposal announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin and Pike counties petitioned the federal government in August 2006 — about four months after the switch took effect — seeking a move back to Eastern time. They cited inconveniences that the time zone change caused for workers and businesses.
If the change wins final approval, it would take effect when daylight-saving time ends for the year on Nov. 4 and mark an end to what was a groundswell across much of Indiana in favor of Central time after state lawmakers voted in 2005 to adopt daylight time statewide for the first time in 30 years.
Robert Grewe, the president of the Dubois Area Development Corp. in Jasper, said the time-zone switch by the southwestern Indiana counties did not spur economic growth even though Evansville — the largest nearby city — will remain on Central time.
"In the end of the day, our businesses and commerce interests here in Dubois County clearly were interested in remaining with the time that the majority of Indiana observes, and that's really the driver in that equation," Grewe said.
Nineteen counties in northern and southwestern Indiana sought a switch into the Central Time Zone in 2005. Federal officials moved eight counties last year, but switched northern Indiana's Pulaski County back in February and only Starke County near South Bend and Perry County along the Ohio River haven't sought a reversal.
The U.S. Transportation Department, which regulates time zones, will consider final approval for the change after a 30-day public comment period.
A return to Eastern time would mean the five counties, which have roughly 132,000 residents, would keep their clocks on the same time on Nov. 4 even as other Americans are moving their clocks and watches back one hour.
In their joint August 2006 request seeking a return to Eastern time, the five counties said the change to Central time resulted in residents and businesses being "inconvenienced in ways that they could not have fully anticipated until the switch occurred."
Among other things, it interfered with commerce by putting companies in a different time zone than either their main suppliers, customers or both. The time zone change also caused problems with bus services and proved troublesome for Wal-Mart stores that are among the region's largest retailers, the federal proposal said.
Ron Arnold, executive director of the Daviess County Economic Development Corp., said his group always opposed the switched from Eastern to Central time. He hopes the federal government approves the switch back to Eastern time.
"We would embrace that with open arms," he said.
Arnold said 98 percent of the county's manufacturers surveyed wanted to be on Eastern time because that's where many of their suppliers and customers are located. The change to Central time has proved particularly problematic for the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, which employs about 800 Daviess County residents and is developing a technology park, he said.
The change would place 80 of Indiana's 92 counties on Eastern time and 12 on Central time — six in northwestern Indiana and six in the Evansville area.