BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The owners of a rooming house that was the center of a storm of controversy are about to buy a second lodging house in the city.
Paul Dacey and E. James Gaines, who ran a so-called “sober house” at 179 Boston St., where two men died in 2011 of apparent drug overdoses, were granted a license last night for 43 Boston St., a 21-room lodging house with its own troubled past.
Licensing Board members said that Dacey, the lead owner, has turned around 179 Boston St., also known as Hilltop Manor, by adding strong management, cleaning up the property and making other improvements.
“That was the test,” Licensing Board member Rick Lee said. “He did a fine job of it.”
There have been no serious incidents at the building in the past year, according to police.
Dacey said they expect to close today on the purchase of 43 Boston St., which has been relatively problem-free in recent years but was the scene of drug raids and repeated police activity over the past decade.
A trust headed by Dacey and Gaines is buying the building from Stephen Morris of Boxford, who also used to own 179 Boston St.
The 43 Boston St. property has been for sale for several years, according to Licensing Board member John Casey.
Casey told Dacey that 43 Boston St., a three-story brick building, has a “debris problem” in the back. The new owner said he will put out a Dumpster and clean up the place.
Last February, the board revoked the license at 179 Boston St., which has 17 rooms but suspended its decision for one year in order not to displace any tenants. It also ordered Dacey to hire a new building manager.
At the time, the board said it was not aware that the establishment had been housing recovering alcoholics and addicts. An official at Lynn District Court, however, said it had referred several men on probation to “Hilltop Recovery House,” which it termed a “sober living facility.” The court stopped making referrals following a death in December 2011.
After the dramatic improvements at 179 Boston St. in the past year, the board said it felt comfortable granting a second license to the new owners.
“I don’t have a problem with this at all,” Lee said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.