The most recent dispute between the Martha’s Vineyard Airport and the Dukes County Commission may be one step closer to resolution, following the county’s decision this week to close the record on the latest complaint from the airport.

The county advisory board has appropriated $3,000 for additional legal fees to allow the county to respond to the complaint, with the condition that the county permanently end its involvement in the litigation. The county expects to exceed its legal budget for this fiscal year.

At a joint meeting of the county commission and county advisory board on Monday, attorney Michael Goldsmith recommended that the county respond in order to avoid a default. Recent conflicts involving the airport’s autonomy from the county have nearly eliminated communication between the two groups this fall. This summer the airport was granted a temporary injunction that included barring the county manager from serving on the board as an ex-officio member. After the county expanded the airport commission from seven to nine members in September, the airport amended its complaint and was granted a second injunction.

Mr. Goldsmith acknowledged that the advisory board has opposed further legal spending, but said responding to the amended complaint would be in the county’s best interest. “To me it makes sense as good business to respond to the complaint, and not leave that open for the county to be defaulted,” he said.

He noted recent overtures by the airport’s legal counsel to meet with the county attorney. “That may lead to some sort of fruitful discussions,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “You can’t predict that.”

Defaulting would likely result in the county needing to ask for a final order from the court stating the airport’s demands. “It would obviously include those things that were granted to the airport commission in the preliminary injunction, and possibly some other types of ordinances that would then become final judgments,” Mr. Goldsmith said. He said responding would “close the record for the time being.”

The county is already expecting to exceed its legal budget for this fiscal year, with an additional $5,000 appropriated this fall for legal fees. Advisory board members were unwilling to appropriate more money to keep the litigation going.

Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter argued that if the airport was in fact breaking the law, the county would be wiser to back away. He warned that the airport would likely take further action if the litigation continued. “I’d be in favor of spending money to get this off the table completely,” he said.

County chairman Leonard Jason said he believed $3,000 would be enough to eliminate the risk of a default, but members of both boards disagreed over where the money should come from. County manager Martina Thornton said it could come from a fund for building handicapped bathrooms in the county courthouse, since that fund had been insufficient for the project to begin. Commissioner Thomas Hallahan and Mr. Manter both resisted the idea of using money that was originally intended for handicapped bathrooms.

The commission voted 3-1, with John Alley opposed and Mr. Hallahan abstaining, to request that the advisory board approve the additional funds. The advisory board approved the request unanimously, with the condition of “closing out this litigation permanently.”

“Ultimately it is going to save money for both the airport and the county if the attorneys can work something out,” advisory board chairman Arthur Smadbeck said following the vote.

Airport manager Sean Flynn, who attended the meeting, said the county had done what was needed in agreeing to respond to the complaint. “It has to be resolved, ultimately, and they can’t just walk away from it,” he said.