AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
A bill is once again making its way through the North Dakota Legislature that would move all of the state to the Central time zone. But while the proposal does make a lot of sense, it probably going to be an uphill climb as a similar proposal was defeated, 28-18, by the state Senate during the last legislative session.
The bill’s sponsors, who are all from eastern North Dakota, say that having two time zones in the state has been an obstacle to business growth. They are right in that regard as there is a lot of confusion when it comes to whether or not a particular city or county in western North Dakota is in the Central or Mountain time zone.
Currently there are 9 counties (Adams, Billings, Bowman, Golden Valley, Grant, Hettinger, Stark and Slope) that are entirely in Mountain time, while three counties (Dunn, McKenzie and Sioux) have both Central and Mountain time zones.
McKenzie County is a perfect example of the confusing aspect of having dual time zones. All of McKenzie County, with the exception of that portion of the county lying south of the Little Missouri River, is on Central time. For people, who live in that portion of the county, it can be far easier for them to do their business in Dickinson or Killdeer, which share the same time zone with them than to deal with Watford City’s one-hour time difference.
But for parents of school children, who reside south of the Little Missouri River, the problem gets a little more complex if they enroll their students in Watford City’s school system. While they may live in the Mountain time zone, the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 operates on Central time. That means for the 9 months of the school year, these families operate on two time zones - one in which they do their regular business, the second by which their children attend school and other school events. Obviously, it would probably be easier for these families if the state had just one time zone.
Likewise, there are a lot of businesses in North Dakota and elsewhere around the country that have a difficult time figuring out exactly where the line separating the Mountain and Central time zones is. The confusion as to whether Watford City is in the Central or the Mountain time zone has caused numerous issues for people scheduling or attending meetings in the community.
Heck, even Medora, North Dakota’s vacation mecca, realized a couple of years ago that they had to do something about the time zone when it came to attracting Central time zone residents to their evening musical. While they couldn’t change their zone, they moved the start of their musical up one hour so that customers who lived in the Central time zone and drove three hours to Medora could get home by midnight instead of 1 a.m. For them, one hour made a difference.
From those perspectives, it makes sense for all of North Dakota to be on the same time zone. While a few counties, that were originally placed in the Mountain time zone, over the past several years have successfully petitioned the federal Department of Transportation to be moved to the Central time zone, the vast majority of the remaining counties appear to like their time the way that it is.
So even though having all of North Dakota on one time zone makes a lot of sense, unless the people of those counties that are in the Mountain time zone come forth in support of the change, the smart money says that the North Dakota Legislature isn’t going to force the change down anyone’s throat.