ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a New Mexico community that could use a brand new drug treatment center, but it’s where the city and the county want to put the facility that has neighbors fighting the project. Crews are remodeling the old nursing home off Calle Hacienda Street in Española to make room for a new drug rehab facility called ‘Darrin’s Place,’ but the change is not welcomed by all.

“We just have a lot of upset people,” said Española resident Debra Martinez. Martinez said she and 500 other residents are pushing back on the facility for a couple of reasons, for one: its location. There is an elementary school just a few yards away from the facility, which is something residents are concerned about.

“Although it might be ideal for the county to have this here, its not the right place for it,” said Martinez. Secondly, residents claim they were misinformed as to what the facility would be used for, believing it was going to become a group home.

The city and the county said they’ve made their intentions clear since last year what the building would be used for. “At that time, we described very clearly operationally what this facility what we intended at that time and that’s still consistent with what we are moving forward with at this time,” said Rio Arriba County Economic Development Director, Christopher Madrid.

Although residents like Martinez worry about an increase in crime, especially next to a school, the county said leaving the building empty would draw trespassers and criminal activity.

“[In] that part of the city, I think everybody knows has problems with substance abuse, vagrancies, with crime,” said Madrid. “We are confident this will be a buffer for the school, this will make the school safer.”

The county got the right to convert that building into a treatment facility in 2019. The Española City Council voted 7-0 in favor of it but Martinez said she has filed an appeal to stop the process.