*Except for 18 counties in state's western corners
Eight Indiana counties will move to the Central time zone April 2, the same day most of the state will turn clocks ahead one hour to observe daylight-saving time.
The decision Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation ends a yearlong debate that split communities and even neighbors.
Under the change, Hoosiers in 74 counties on Eastern time will spring ahead one hour at 2 a.m. April 2, when daylight-saving time goes into effect. Hoosiers in the eight counties newly designated for Central time will join 10 other counties already in the Central zone and will not adjust their clocks.
On Oct. 29, Hoosiers in all 92 counties will turn their clocks back one hour.
The feds' final decision will move two northwestern counties, Starke and Pulaski, and six southwestern counties, Knox, Daviess, Martin, Pike, Dubois and Perry, to the Central time zone.
The rest of the state's 74 counties will stay in the Eastern time zone, including St. Joseph County. The department reversed its earlier recommendation to let South Bend switch to Central time in order to keep the city in St. Joseph County on the same time with neighboring Elkhart.
While the department's decision is final, many Hoosiers Wednesday were doubtful that the time debate in Indiana will ever be over.
"This is only the first step," said Rep. David Crooks, a Democrat who wants the rest of the state to join his home county, Daviess, in the Central zone.
Mark Dobson, a St. Joseph County commissioner who was delighted with the DOT decision, said he is worried that the arguments will continue.
"Unfortunately, there will be continued attempts to keep stirring the pot on this," he said.
Gov. Mitch Daniels started the time zone turmoil when he pushed a bill adopting daylight-saving time through the 2005 General Assembly. That bill required Daniels to seek hearings on where the Central and Eastern time zone boundaries should be drawn.
Seventeen counties petitioned for a time change. Initially the DOT recommended that five be approved. But after four contentious and lengthy hearings and written comments from more than 6,000 people, the department revised its decision.
Daniels, who had said time zones were a local decision but urged that St. Joseph County's request be denied, issued a statement saying Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta "listened to the opinions and evidence presented by Hoosiers."
"Though a perfect outcome is not possible, we have substantial improvement," Daniels said. " Indiana is in step with our customers in the global economy, and we have a higher percentage of all Hoosiers on the same time year-round than we've ever had."
What Daniels calls an improvement, though, one South Bend resident -- John Gaski, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame -- calls an outrage.
Daniels, he said, sided with Elkhart County, which opted for Eastern time, against St. Joseph County. If they were countries, Gaski said, "this would amount to an act of war."
Gaski thinks the county should consider declaring "home rule" and observe Central time, just as some southeastern Indiana counties have long illegally observed daylight-saving time.
"If St. Joe and Marshall counties get together and enact Central time by home rule, Elkhart would have to come along," Gaski said.
Steve Ross, a St. Joseph County commissioner who vehemently supports Central time, said that's not likely -- "not right now."
But, he said, after a year of daylight-saving time, and a year of 18 counties always being on a different time from most of the state, Hoosiers may want to change time zones and the politicians who delivered them.
House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said the state should find out now what most Hoosiers want by passing bills by Crooks and other lawmakers calling for a statewide referendum.
"I think the only way that most people in Indiana will feel that they haven't been force-fed this by the federal government and the governor is to have a referendum," Bauer said. "The people ought to be given a voice."
But House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, called the decision "the best possible result."
Now, he said, the state needs to move on to other issues.
"I see no reason for any of the legislation that wants to roll this decision back to move forward," he said. "It is my belief that once people settle down and we start learning the new time system, that we will all be very comfortable with this in a year or so."
Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks the debate is over for the "foreseeable future." While counties can still petition for a change, Brinegar said he doubted the federal Transportation Department would be eager to get back into an issue that has consumed so much time.
Martin Vaught, spokesman for Kimball International, the furniture and electronics manufacturer that has been headquartered in Jasper since its founding in 1950, said everyone will adjust. The company wanted Eastern time, while many area residents wanted Central time.
"We won't move. We're not going to take our ball and go home," Vaught said. "It will be business as usual."
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