Legal spending is on the rise at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, much of it due to ongoing litigation with the former owner of Airport Mobil, the business park fuel station that was forced to close after the airport commission did not renew its lease in 2017.

From April 20, 2017 through August 14, 2018, the airport commission spent $278,874 for legal fees and expenses relating to the Airport Mobil lawsuit, records provided by the airport and its Boston attorneys show.

The airport is represented in the case by its counsel David S. Mackey, a partner with Anderson & Krieger in Boston. Mr. Mackey charges $315 an hour for his services, while associate attorney work is billed at $235 an hour, according to records provided by airport attorneys.

The fees cover various legal services, including research, telephone and e-mail communications, drafting and filing legal documents, and representing the airport commission in court proceedings. Expenses listed on the invoices cover various costs, including air fare and taxi fare for lawyers traveling to and from the Island.

The Airport Mobil litigation dates to the spring of 2017 when the airport commission voted to not renew the lease for owner Michael Rotondo, who had held the lease for 20 years. After a public bidding process, the commission voted to award a new lease to Louis Paciello, doing business as Depot Corner. Mr. Paciello is an Edgartown businessman who owns two gas stations in downtown Edgartown.

Litigation followed that quickly grew tangled, involved more than one court and remains ongoing.

Recent airport budgets show total legal spending is on the rise. In fiscal year 2017, the airport budgeted $150,000 for legal costs and spent more than $184,000. In fiscal year 2018, the airport budgeted $200,472 for legal fees and spent $206,142. In the current fiscal year, the airport has budgeted $250,000 for legal fees.

Airport officials said the legal costs are not paid by taxpayers but come from revenues generated by airport operations, such as airline landing fees and fuel sales. But they also concede that money spent on legal bills could have been used for operating costs, and that without the legal expenses the airport might be able to borrow less to meet its revenue needs. The airport borrowed money this year to meet cash flow needs due to capital expenditures.

“There is no question I would prefer not to have to defend ourselves against lawsuits, but that’s not an option,” said airport director Ann Richart.

Airport commission chairman Bob Rosenbaum agreed and said the airport has tried to mediate the case more than once, to no avail.

“We’re certainly going to defend ourselves. If he [Mr. Rotondo] is willing to talk we are certainly willing to do that as well.”

Reached by telephone, Mr. Rotondo said he remains determined to pursue the case all the way to trial, despite personal legal costs he says are in excess of $200,000.

The litigation, initially filed in Dukes County superior court at the time the lease was awarded to Mr. Paciello, has involved claims and counterclaims, a variety of motions and interim orders and has been slowly wending its way through the judicial process.

Early this past summer a superior court judge dismissed some claims and allowed others to go forward. At a status hearing in August, airport attorneys asked to split the case in order to streamline the court process, but a judge declined to rule on the motion.

Superior court Joseph E. Sollitto Jr. said the latest legal action in the case involved a request to the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court asking for a judge to be appointed to hear the case.

Litigants are awaiting a decision on that request, Mr. Sollitto said.

There is little indication the matter will be resolved soon. Court documents lay out a preliminary calendar where a final pretrial conference is scheduled for December 2020, with a deadline for resolution and judgment in June of 2021.

Meanwhile, a new Shell station, car wash and convenience store owned by Mr. Paciello at the former site of Airport Mobil is nearly finished but has yet to open.