The University of New Brunswick cut $17,000 in additional costs to its porch renovation project this summer by postponing the construction of a permanent accessibility ramp to the president’s official residence, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Somerville House, the official home of the University of New Brunswick’s president, underwent $160,000 worth of upgrades earlier this year.


The University of New Brunswick decided against building a $17,000 accessibility ramp for Somerville House this summer. (CBC)

As the project was winding down in late August, university officials sent around a series of emails about whether to push forward with a $17,000 accessibility ramp.

In an email that appears to be sent from Eddy Campbell, the university’s president, the hefty cost was called into question.

"In NL at the moment. I wonder if we could wait on this — $17K is a significant investment," the Aug. 24 email said, but the sender’s name is withheld.

Three days later, another email was circulated regarding the outdoor ramp.

"If you give me an estimate of the cost for the design, I’ll dig deep to find $ to cover and if you give me a cost for the ramp and reno’s, I’ll dig deeper to see what I can find to hopefully fund this work," the unnamed university official indicated. In the end, the ramp project was postponed.

Instead, the university is looking at other options to make the president’s mansion more accessible.

In the meantime, a university official said there are temporary options that can be used at the historic mansion to accommodate people with accessibility issues.

CBC News received the documents through the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Universities were added to the province’s information law in September.

Ramp would have met all codes

One major stumbling block to the project is ensuring any new addition to the residence maintains the 196-year-old house’s character.

A Facilities Management official with UNB wrote on Aug. 24 the proposed ramp would have been nearly 20 metres long with two level landings.

"The ramp would be a barrier-free design for wheelchair accessibility … and include all necessary railings to meet all applicable codes," the Aug. 24 email said.

The accessibility ramp would have been built out of pressure treated lumber and would have rested on concrete deck blocks.

The email asked for an immediate response on whether the project should move forward so it would be finished for a function that was slated for Somerville House on Sept. 6.

Somerville House is located on Fredericton’s famous Waterloo Row. The mansion was built in 1816 and was once the official residence of the lieutenant governor.

Julia MacLauchlan and Warren MacKenzie, two high-profile UNB alumni, bought the residence from the provincial government after the lieutenant governor moved back to Government House. In 2009, MacLauchlan and MacKenzie sold the house to UNB for $1.