SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The St. Joseph County Council wants the county to join its northwestern Indiana neighbors in the Central time zone.
The council voted Tuesday to ask the U.S. Department of Transportation to switch St. Joseph County _ the state's fourth largest with more than 260,000 people _ from Eastern time. If approved, that would put South Bend on the same time as the three counties to its west _ LaPorte, Porter and Lake _ and align it with Chicago.
The city councils in South Bend and Mishawaka have also voted to back the county's switch as Indiana counties face a Sept. 16 deadline to ask the federal government for changes to the state's time zone boundaries. The county commissioners have the final vote on whether to formally ask for the move.
Commissioners in Marshall County, located just to the south of St. Joseph County, are already seeking the change.
Meanwhile, commissioners in southwestern Indiana's Daviess County also voted this week to seek a move to the Central zone and keep it in sync with Evansville when the state goes to daylight-saving time next spring.
John Gaski, an assistant business professor at the University of Notre Dame, presented a formula to show that South Bend should be on Central time because it is within Chicago's sphere of economic influence.
St. Joseph County Council member Mark Root argued in favor of Eastern time, saying most flights out of South Bend Regional Airport are to Eastern time locations.
Commissioner Mark Dobson also said he was not sure the switch was justified.
"A significant portion of the data indicates that St. Joe County has a stronger tie into the Eastern time zone based on commerce and the routes of transportation," Dobson said.
In Daviess County, Commissioner Tony Wichman said local constituents he spoke with favored Central time as followed by Evansville some 50 miles to the south.
"It seems to be an overwhelming majority," said Steve Myers, a commissioner who said only three of 23 people who called him favored Eastern time.
The U.S. Department of Transportation, which regulates time zones, formally invited requests in response to a state petition that asked the agency to determine whether time boundaries should be changed. The petition was required by a law that mandates statewide observance of daylight-saving time beginning next spring.
The petition from Gov. Mitch Daniels asked the federal department to keep five counties in southwestern Indiana and five in northwestern Indiana in the Central zone. It also seeks to keep five southeastern counties near Cincinnati and Louisville, Ky., in the Eastern zone.
But it did not state a preference for the remaining 77 counties in the Eastern zone. Those currently do not observe daylight-saving time.