BROOKSVILLE — It took a full day of mediation, but Hernando and Hillsborough officials have settled their dispute over the name of Hernando County's airport.
The new name: Brooksville Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
Once the settlement is approved by the two jurisdictions, it will bring an end to the federal lawsuit the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority filed in early November against the Hernando County Commission and its aviation authority for violation of the Tampa International Airport trademark.
For years, the Hernando airport, south of Brooksville, has been known as the Hernando County Airport. Hernando officials wanted a name that would help them better market the airport and its adjacent industrial parks.
"Both sides are very pleased,'' Hernando commission Chairman Dave Russell said. "We had a great session.''
Officials at Tampa International were mum on the outcome of mediation.
''We have no comment on the ongoing mediation,'' said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink. "Discussing it is strictly prohibited by the court.''
Russell said he will be happy to see the lawsuit end.
"We will save ourselves some very expensive litigation costs on both sides. We've come out with a good outcome and a good name," he said.
Russell had proposed the name as a compromise on the name the Hernando commission previously had approved: Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport. In federal court pleadings, Hillsborough authority attorneys argued that that name violated the Hillsborough Aviation Authority's trademark on "Tampa'' and "Airport.''
Hillsborough sought an injunction to keep Hernando from using its new name, but the judge did not rule on that prior to Wednesday's mediation session.
As part of the settlement, Hernando officials agreed that they do not have any immediate plans for regularly scheduled passenger traffic. But Hernando will not be prevented from pursuing passenger service later, Russell said.
"That's going to be driven by the market,'' he said.
Russell said Hernando will continue to operate as a general aviation airport.
"We're not giving up any services that we currently offer,'' he said.
Hernando officials also agreed to help promote Tampa International Airport to Hernando County travelers. Currently, a number of county residents choose to fly out of Orlando, Russell said.
In addition, the two sides agreed to work together on business development projects.
"Tampa International is landlocked. They don't have a lot of opportunity for expansion,'' Russell said. "This is going to be mutually beneficial to both airports.''
Gary Schraut, chairman of the Hernando County Aviation Authority, agreed.
"If we can expand their passenger traffic and we can expand our business … I just don't see a downside to it,'' he said.
Schraut said he was pleased with the mediation process.
"It's what should have been done all along, everybody sitting down and talking,'' he said.
Russell said having the face-to-face conversation helped increase the level of understanding between Hillsborough and Hernando officials.
"It has never been our intention to be predatory to their business or their operation,'' he said.
Said Schraut: "I think their concerns got over-fueled, thinking that Brooksville wanted to be the mecca for passenger traffic.''
That was never the Hernando Aviation Authority's intent, he said.
By settling the legal action, he said, "we can get back to what we do, which is creating jobs in Hernando County.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.