It was business as usual at Airport Mobil on Monday. There were people inside buying cold drinks and lottery tickets, people at the pumps getting filled up with fuel, and customers wiping away the dust at the car wash.
You would have never known that the station, owned by Airport Fuel Services (AFS) Inc. and operated by Michael Rotondo, is on death row — evicted as of July 31 by order of Judge Thomas Kirkman, who approved the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission’s petition.
On Tuesday, Mr. Rotondo posted a sign on the side of the building announcing that the store would be closing after 20 years in business and thanking his customers. He said the final day is coming, maybe as soon as Monday, as he sells off gas in the fuel tanks and stock from inside the store.
“This whole thing is breaking my heart,” Mr. Rotondo told The Times. “It’s just beyond words.”
Mr. Rotondo was outbid for the property by Louis Paciello of Depot Corner. Though Mr. Paciello offered $250,000 in a “take it or leave it offer,” Mr. Rotondo told The Times in April, he is now spending more than $100,000 to have it removed.
“I couldn’t hold my head up on this Island if I sold it for pennies on the dollar,” he said of the buildings and equipment.
Mr. Rotondo is attempting to make the best of the situation. He is donating two fuel tanks to the Edgartown Fire Department. After the massive tanks — 10,000 and 12,000 gallons — are washed out, they can be used to store water for the fire department in fire-prone areas like Chappaquiddick or South Beach where there is no readily accessible water source, he said.
Edgartown fire officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
“We’re signing contracts and getting ready to pull the tanks,” he said. “At least they won’t be smashed and taken to a disposal site.”
Other equipment, like compressors, is also being sold off. “We’ll recycle what we can, but a lot of good stuff is being thrown out,” he said.
It’s a tough time of year for the Island to lose a business, Mr. Rotondo noted. He said some big rigs and excavators from airport-area businesses use his station and will now be part of the traffic in congested areas.
“I feel bad about that,” he said. “To my customers, I know they support me. Give them my love.”
David Mackey, an attorney for the airport commission, declined comment, citing the ongoing litigation between Mr. Rotondo and the commission over the bid process.
In March, the commission awarded a 20-year lease to Mr. Paciello of Depot Corner, which outbid AFS by nearly $400,000 over the course of the lease. Though Depot Corner was not the high bidder, that bid was tossed out because the commission had questions about the limited details offered by that bidder.
In his ruling, Judge Kirkman found that Mr. Rotondo’s original lease expired and that ended his tenancy for the property. He also ordered Mr. Rotondo to remove the fuel tanks and other facilities from the property to make way for the new leaseholder.
A Superior Court judge had already rejected Mr. Rotondo’s bid to block the transfer of the property to Depot Corner by denying a preliminary injunction in April. Judge Mitchell Kaplan found that Mr. Rotondo had not demonstrated that he had a likelihood of prevailing in his lawsuit that alleges a flawed bidding process against the airport commission.
“As the Superior Court judge noted in his decision denying a preliminary injunction with respect to the very same lease provision under consideration here: ‘This court … has no authority to relieve a party from contract obligations that, in retrospect, now appear to be a bad deal,’” Judge Kirkman wrote. “The defendant knew for 20 years that it was required to remove the leasehold improvements upon the end of the lease.”
Judge Kirkman wrote that the commission can enter the property and remove the equipment “at the expense of AFS.” The judge declined to assign an amount to the “speculative cost” to the commission for removing the structures and fuel tanks.
That order appears to be moot, as Mr. Rotondo has already begun cleaning out the facility and hiring companies to do the demolition.