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Residents Reject Time Zone Change in North Dakota

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Published 25-Aug-2009. Changed 1-Jul-2010

Update: The result of the proposed time zone change in Stark County, North Dakota was rejected by the residents of Billings and Stark counties in the June 2010 ballot. The question on the ballot was: "Should the Stark County Commissioners petition the U.S. Department of Transportation to place Stark County in the Central Time Zone?" The idea of moving from Mountain time to Central time was rejected by 74 percent of voters in Stark County and 82 percent of voters in Billings County. Although the votes are advisory, the federal Department of Transportation is the only agency that can approve a time zone change.

In February 2010, a petition about the proposed time zone change in Stark County, North Dakota, was circulated to get the matter in the June 2010 ballot. A letter was also sent to nine south-west counties in the state, asking the county commissions to either put this issue on the ballot, or circulate petitions among citizens. Many of these counties said “No” to putting it on the June ballot, while others said they would wait and see what happens in Stark County or until their citizens request it.

Dickinson city commissioner Shirley Dukart is pushing for a time zone change in Stark County in North Dakota, the United States. Ms Dukart plans for petitions to be circulated as early as January 2010, calling for the county to move one hour ahead from the Mountain time zone to the Central time zone.

North Dakota capital tower with Department of Transportation building in foreground in early morning light.

The Department of Transportation (building pictured in front of North Dakota's main State Capitol building) may make the final decision on the proposal for Suffolk County to move into a new time zone.

©iStockphoto.com/sakakawea7

Current Situation

Stark County, in North Dakota, currently observes the Mountain time zone. It is on Mountain Standard Time (MST), which is seven hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (or UTC-7 hours), when it is not on daylight saving time (DST). It is on Mountain Daylight Time (MDT), which is UTC-6 hours, when it observes DST.

In contrast, most parts of North Dakota observe the Central time zone. These areas observe Central Standard Time (CST), which is UTC-6 hours, when not on DST. They are on Central Daylight Time (CDT), which is UTC- 5 hours, during DST. 

Proposed Time Zone Change

Ms Dukart anticipates that the petitions will be circulated as early as January 2010, calling for Stark County, North Dakota, to observe the Central time zone (CST/CDT). This would mean that the county would be in line with most parts of North Dakota throughout the year. The petitions’ purpose is for Stark County to share the same office hours as areas in the state on Central time. Many offices in Stark County deal with state government offices, health care organizations, and businesses outside the county that are on Central time, and these offices close at 4pm (or 16:00).

Ms Dukart said that she wanted the possible time zone change to be a “people’s choice change”. “Waiting till January (2010) gives the other Southwest Counties the opportunity to sign petitions and place it on the ballot for the June Primary Election as well,” Ms Dukart said. “If the voters pass this, the next step will be for the County Commissioners to petition the Department of Transportation who will make the final decision.”

However, not everyone agrees that the petitions would be in the best interest for all. Some residents in North Dakota expressed in the media that such a change would be unnecessary. Some people recommended changing business operating hours instead of time zones. Nonetheless, Ms Dukart believes that education, government, business, health care and recreation would benefit from a time zone change.  “This will not take business away from Dickinson but will enhance it and allow us to be more competitive,” she said.

It is anticipated that there would be more support for the petitions so the issue can be on the ballot for the next general election in June 2010. timeanddate.com will provide more information on the proposed time zone change as it becomes available.

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