A decision on whether to rename Domin Avenue — originally named after a 1920s-era Ku Klux Klan leader — won't happen before the November election, Town Manager Dennis Finlay confirmed.
During an interview at Smithfield Town Hall yesterday, Finlay said the town council on Tuesday night referred the matter to him "for further study and evaluation" as provided by town ordinances.
"I have to get back to them at some future date with a recommendation," Finlay explained, adding residents can still offer ideas on a new name.
"Anybody at any time can send in any suggestions" in addition to the four ideas already put forward, he said.
The issue arose because "there was a person from Hawaii who sent an email," Finlay recalled, referring to Roger L. Schenck, who grew up near Domin Avenue, off Stillwater Road near Georgiaville Pond.
According to the Valley Breeze, former Town Council President John Emin Jr. took up the issue after Finlay decided that Schenck's request was not valid, since he is not a current resident of the town.
Another resident of Domin Avenue, Susan Doyle, told the council on Sept. 18 that she planned to formally request the name change, the Valley Breeze reported.
Most residents of the street have asked the town to leave the name alone, the Valley Breeze also noted, saying they would be inconvenienced by having to change the address on all of their records.
On Tuesday, Finlay said he is "impartial" on the issue of renaming the street, since his task is to "evaluate the facts."
Asked whether he thinks this may lead other residents to request name changes to streets if they found something objectionable about them, Finlay replied: "It may — who knows? Time will tell."
Finlay also explained that he was surprised to learn about the history of Domin Avenue's name.
"I never heard, nor have any people in [Town Hall] ever heard of what allegedly occurred down there," Finlay said. "Nobody really knew."
The RI Future website reported on Oct. 2 that, according to historical reports, John Algernon Domin, the Exalted Cyclops of the Rhode Island KKK in the late 1920s, attempted to take over the Rhode Island Light Infantry and conduct "a kind of military coup" against the state, in the words of writer Steve Alquist.
Domin also held Klan meetings and cross-burnings at a field in Smithfield, according to the Valley Breeze, and the name "Domin Avenue" was given to the road leading to the field, reportedly by Domin himself at first, then by the town when houses were built in the area.