For the 4,002 residents of Kearny County, Kan., the times truly are changing.

The Transportation Department has announced that western Kearny County will be moved into the Central Time Zone, settling a dispute that dates back decades and has, at times, turned a bit ugly.

"People have accepted the change, and life will go on," said Dennis C. Jones, the Kearny County attorney and proponent of the move out of Mountain time.

Time zones were originally set up by the railroads, which is why the Transportation Department has jurisdiction, and the vagaries of bureaucracy and history have left Kearny County split between two zones.

Three times since 1926, the Central-Mountain line has been moved around western Kansas, but many Kearny County residents had long resisted joining the folks in Central time.

"It seems to me that the ones who favor Central time so strongly are ones who have moved here from . . . Central time," Kristina A. Bell, a lifelong resident of the Mountain time town of Lakin, wrote federal officials after the county commission requested the change last fall.

Bell and other Mountain time advocates said they are accustomed to the hassles of dealing with two time zones. Besides, they argued, another hour of daylight just means another hour of work for farmers.

"Granted, when you first have to learn to make the adjustment from Central to Mountain time, you are required to think a little when making appointments," wrote county resident Carol I. Patton. "However, I've always believed a little thought never hurt anyone and might even be good for a person."

But Central timers complained of the hassles of scheduling sports matches and other activities when only two of the district's schools are in Mountain time. Plus, many Lakin residents work in meat processing and gas plants on the other side of the time line.

Joanne Petrie, the Transportation Department attorney who traveled to Lakin and held a "rockin' and rollin' " hearing on the change, said the department chose to move the line because federal law requires that the dictates of commerce take precedence.

Under the department's ruling, when the rest of the country turns clocks back an hour on Oct. 28, Lakin residents will have to leave theirs alone to catch up with changing times.