ESSEX Along with representatives from both the state and federal levels, leaders of Willsboros Smith House health center announced their plan to expand services with a new physical therapy facility in Essex. Congressman John McHugh (R-Plattsburgh), Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro), Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury), and USDA Rural Development State Director Patrick H. Brennan met at the facility to present a check representing over $250,000 to Associated Community Action (ACA), the parent organization of the Smith House. With the grant and low interest load assistance of USDA Rural Development, Smith House will expand its services, said H. Nicholas Muller III, chairperson of ACA. The building, which once existed as a hardware store, has been operating as a fitness center for the past few years. The new funding allowed ACA to acquire the building and make plans to renovate it into a physical therapy and administrative center. Muller stressed that physical therapy is crucial in the region where theres an aging and under served population with high occurrence rates of cardiopulmonary disease. It will also permit a community wellness program, and by moving some administrative services to Essex, Smith House can reconfigure the headquarters in Willsboro to see more patients, reduce waiting room time, and have an emergency examination room on the ready, added Muller. Moving its physical therapy operations to the Essex location will more than triple the amount of space available for that line of treatment. One of USDA Rural Developments primary missions is to improve the quality of life in rural areas and supporting Associated Community Actions efforts helps us achieve that objective, said Brennan. This project is an example of how critical federal funding for the USDA is on a local level, particularly in rural communities, said McHugh. I will continue to strongly support federal funding for these types of programs in Congress. Smith House Executive Director Robin Pierce said the three representatives were instrumental in promoting the project to the USDA. Pierce said renovations will begin in the next several weeks with the hope of re-opening the facility in the spring. One of our goals is to continue to have public access to this facility, said Pierce, also, to create wellness programs that will help promote healthy living, and to try to expand services that our community wants and deserves.