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The Time May Be A-Changin’ in Two North Dakota Counties

June 11, 1990

CENTER, N.D. (AP) _ People in this town of about 900 are never quite sure what time it is.

The map tells them they are in the Mountain time zone. Banks, schools and city offices operate on Mountain time. But many people who do business with companies in Bismarck and Mandan, about 45 miles to the southeast, find it easier to set their clocks on Central time.

On Tuesday, voters in Oliver and Mercer counties will decide whether they want to end the confusion and officially switch to Central time. Center, in Oliver County, is about 20 miles west of the dividing line between the Central and Mountain zones.

″Our town is totally in chaos, because different businesses have one time and a lot of working people have another time,″ said James Fagerland, a foreman at BNI Coal. Since the company goes by Central time, the clocks in Fagerland’s house are set for Central time.

″If you’re dealing with the bank, they’re on slow (Mountain) time,″ Fagerland said. ″At the time, we’re on fast (Central) time. Many meetings have been missed, many appointments, because of this stupid time situation.″

Carl Goetz lives six blocks away from Fagerland, but he keeps Mountain time. That’s because his insurance business works with banks in Oliver and Mercer that are on Mountain time.

″If I say, ‘let’s go play golf at 6 in the morning,’ I’ve got to tell you what time I’m talking about,″ Fagerland said. ″You’ve got to continually keep it in mind.″

The difference between ″fast″ and ″slow″ time is confusing for many. But not everyone wants to change it.

For Lee Husfloen, owner of Lee’s bar, the time difference means money.

By law, bars must close at 1 a.m.

Husfloen says most of his business comes from night shift workers at two mining companies and two power plants near Center.

Those businesses operate on Central time. So when the workers get out at midnight they’ve got two hours to spend money in Husfloen’s bar before 1 a.m., Mountain time. If Husfloen had to switch to Central time, he’d lose an hour of business.

″That hour is money at that time of night,″ he said.

If the voters choose Central time, it won’t be binding on county commissioners, but it could help persuade them to petition the federal Department of Transportation to make the change.

Fagerland and farmer Wyman Sheets petitioned the Oliver board to put the time change to a vote. He said the commissioners are unlikely to seek the change if only one of the two counties approves Central time.

The time zones were created by railroads before North Dakota became a state. The division between Central and Mountain time runs close to the Missouri River. Most of the area south and west of the river - about one quarter of the state - is on Mountain time. Some people think all of North Dakota should switch to Central time.

″I would like to see the whole state in the same time zone,″ Fagerland said. ″At least you would know that the time changes at the state line. Here, we’re out in the middle of the prairie and the time changes.″

If the whole state isn’t ready for a time change yet, Fagerland would at least like to synchronize the clocks in his part of the state.

″I’d like to move this confusion west,″ he said.

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