Groundbreaking at Five Rivers for new education building

By MARK O'BRIEN

BETHLEHEM, N.Y. — The Guided School Program at Five Rivers will soon have a new, “green” building to call home.

Thanks to a $500,000 donation, the New York DEC will build a brand new facility to house the program.  It's provided on-site outdoors lessons to classes throughout the school year since 1980, and throughout that time, the program has been based in an aging building called Goose Lodge that dates back to the mid-1930's.

“It was obvious that it was a wonderful program with wonderful people participating,” says Herb Repass, who along with his wife Peggy, donated the money.  “(But) the facilities truly were inadequate for the program they were supporting.”

The Repass family made the donation in honor of their late daughter, Wendy Repass Suozzo, who was a longtime educator at Five Rivers and ran the Guided School Program for many years.  She lost a battle with cancer last year.

“Having kids come and be able to partake in a green building would be really, really exciting for her,” says her husband, Jim Suozzo.  “I think she'd be very, very honored at this time.”

Suozzo, along with his two children and Wendy's parents attended a groundbreaking at the site of the new building on Monday.  It's designed to be a more environmentally friendly home for the school program.  Directors say Goose Lodge has worn down over the years, is too small for the needs of the program, and is energy inefficient.

The new facility will be LEED certified and feature a green roof composed mainly of soil and grass, rain barrels, photovoltaic solar panels, and geothermal energy to heat the floors.  Designers say the building will be made of roughly 20 percent used or recycled materials.  Envision Architects in Albany designed the plans.

Construction on the new facility will begin in March and should finish by early next fall.  A second phase of the project, featuring a new visitor's center, will begin in the spring of 2011.

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