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IN SOME LOCALES, TIME IS A TIMELESS ISSUE

When it comes to being tormented by Father Time, no place seems to have it tougher than Starke County, Ind.

Not only is there the perennial debate over whether the state should observe daylight-saving time, which begins Sunday. Starke County has trouble just deciding which time zone it wants to be in.Perched on the fault line between the Central and Eastern time zones, the county had long existed under Central time. But in 1991, after two unsuccessful attempts, Starke persuaded the U.S. Department of Transportation to include it in the Eastern time zone, where most Indianans live and work.

The reasoning was simple. Back when Starke County was more closely aligned with Chicago's orbit, Central time made sense. But as commuting patterns shifted in recent years, an increasing number of county residents began working in the South Bend metropolitan area, which is in the Eastern time zone.

These days, though, Starke County isn't so sure it wants to be included in the Eastern zone anymore. Those who still commute to Chicago and do business in the Central zone are lobbying to turn back the clock, so to speak: County officials are seeking a return to Central time.

It may sound like an odd case, but at least Starke County may commiserate with dozens of other similarly situated places across the country that are caught in the twilight standard zone.

Continental America's four time zones, created to accommodate railroad schedules in the late 19th century, generally follow state boundaries, but 11 states are divided by time zones. In a few cases, counties are cut in two.

The time differences can wreak havoc on daily activities. West of the Missouri River in South Dakota, for example, local governments operate under Mountain time; the rest of the state is one hour ahead on Central time.

That inconvenience pales in comparison to the travails of Kearny County, Kan. Before it successfully petitioned to move the entire county into Central time in 1989, Kearny was split between Central and Mountain time. Residents had to contend with school and work schedules complicated by a one-hour time difference from one side of the county to the other.

Still, no state seems to match Indiana for sheer chronological mischief. Almost a quarter-century ago, the legislature pulled the state off daylight-saving time. But as it stands, a handful of counties still observe daylight-saving time.

A new bill, being pushed in the legislature by a business coalition known as Hoosiers for daylight-saving time, aims to institute a measure of temporal uniformity. From April until October, the entire state would go on daylight-saving time.

Similar bills have failed in the past. The Farm Bureau, for one, opposes such a change. But this year, bill supporters may have uncovered a new angle. "We estimate the banks of Indiana invest over $10 million a year in activities like Little League," says Tom Williams of the Indiana Bankers Association. "They would benefit from the extra hour of daylight."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Who beat the clock?

Most of America gets another hour of light at the end of each day starting today.

The price is losing an hour of sleep. The change from standard to daylight saving time officially occured at 2 a.m. this morning.