The proposed new terminal at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport is on hold.
Council members said Tuesday that they want to know more about the prospects of the local economy before they commit to the $160 million project, which has been in the works for about seven years.
Mayor Carl Brewer asked city officials and economists at Wichita State University to monitor sales tax returns and other factors to try to provide the council with a solid forecast of the local economy.
Then, probably in January, the council will decide whether to solicit construction bids. If that happens, the terminal could still open sometime in 2014.
"I think we need to proceed cautiously because we don't know what the economy's going to look like for at least the next six months," Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell said.
Among top concerns:
* News that Louisiana is trying to lure away one of the city's top employers, Hawker Beechcraft.
* Continued layoffs in the city's cornerstone aviation industry.
* Concerns about whether state lawmakers will again subsidize low-cost airlines that fly out of Wichita.
The new terminal would be paid for with passenger fees, facility charges, airport revenue, rents, landing fees and Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Homeland Security grants. Airlines have told the city and its consultants that it opposes any increase in their fees.
The existing terminal is aging and needs repairs.
In a worst-case scenario, the airport could exhaust its ability to pay off debt for the new terminal, forcing the city to pay it off with taxpayer money.
But the city's consultant, Leigh Fisher, projects that would not happen.
The Wichita Airport Advisory Board voted 7-2 last month in favor of moving forward with the project. That vote followed news in July that the city would postpone the project to reevaluate its financial projections.
Dwight Greenlee, chairman of the advisory board, said he is concerned that the delay could cost the airport if construction costs climb or the cost of borrowing money increases.
"I'm convinced that we have enough things going for us in this community to see our way clear," he said after the council decided to delay.
He said, however, that while the city waits, the Federal Aviation Administration could decide to provide more funding for the project.
"It's a crap shoot," he said.
Airport director Victor White said that he and others are anxious to see what the bids come in at because many recent projects have come in significantly less than engineers' estimates.
"We're all just guessing right now as to what we think it's going to cost," he said.