Trying to control a growing controversy in the Hoosier State, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Thursday (Nov. 10) said that St. Joseph (South Bend) and Elkhart counties should be in the same time zone and chided St. Joseph County officials for causing “regional anxiety” for wanting to switch to Central time, the South Bend Tribune reported.
If plans submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation are approved sometime next year, St. Joseph County will switch to Central time, leaving Elkhart County and other surrounding counties except one on Eastern time.
The switch is likely to cause havoc for workers in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties who commute to jobs across county lines. The RV industry, which annually produces more than 60% of all RVs in northern Indiana and is centered in Elkhart County, will be among the industries most affected.
“If they (St. Joseph County officials) … can persuade their neighbors in Elkhart and in Marshall and other counties to join them, I’m for that,” Daniels said. “If they can’t, then I think they ought to drop this request, which has caused all this consternation, and leave things where they are.”
The time zone issue arose earlier this year when the Indiana General Assembly – at Daniels’ urging – decided the Hoosier State should observe Daylight Saving Time beginning next April. In approving Daniels request, legislators tacked on  a requirement that Daniels seek federal hearings to determine where time zone boundaries should be drawn. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Transportation ruled that the time zone question needed to be decided on a county-by-county basis.
Daniels’ comments preceded four scheduled DOT hearings on the request of 16 counties seeking to change from Eastern to Central time.