Apparently, the exercise to have the public suggest a name for the town's third train station was just that -- an exercise, and a futile one at that.

At the end of last year, the town administration sought residents' and train users' opinions on what to call the station, which is on the eastern side of town near the Bridgeport line in an industrial area. For years, the station has been known as "Fairfield Metro Center," but the town administration felt it would be a good idea to obtain suggestions for a new name, which would better represent the area in which it is located.

The survey, which was available online at the town's website and at the Fairfield Train Station in the downtown area, was answered by more than 1,200 people (me included). The overwhelming choice of name was "Black Rock Station" because of its proximity to that section of Bridgeport. "Fairfield Black Rock Station" was the next desired name. "Ash Creek Station" was the third most suggested one because it sits alongside the Ash Creek tributary. (Bridgeport has no involvement with the station project, by the way.)

All along, First Selectman Ken Flatto -- who also filled out the survey but at the time wouldn't reveal his preference -- said the final choice of name would be the state Department of Transportation's since it is building the station and will operate it. Not to mention, the DOT is footing the bill for its construction.

In April of last year, $19.4 million in state bond funds were approved and announced in a dog-and-pony show at the site of the station that was attended by town and state officials, including then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The train station and associated commercial development project-- filled with controversy for years -- is the result of a three-party agreement with the town, state and Blackrock Realty, a private developer that had planned on building 800,000 square feet of office space and other amenities, like a hotel. But financial troubles, in the manner of foreclosure, hit the developer, so now we all are waiting to see if that part of the project ever becomes reality.

Then, in the midst of all this discussion on the name change, Kurt Wittek of Blackrock Realty weighed in and was adamant that it stay Fairfield Metro as that is how he expects to market the project when the time comes. Oh, and not to mention, the DOT already had had signs installed at the station that read "Fairfield Metro."

Confused yet? There's more.

Out of nowhere, the Board of Selectmen on March 16 discussed the name and voted to keep "Fairfield Metro." By the way, Flatto confessed that he preferred a name that included "Grasmere" (that's because the station also borders that section of Fairfield), but opted to abstain from the vote. His reasoning? He didn't want the state to think there was not a consensus of opinion. Um, isn't that what exactly happened anyway by his sidestepping taking a position? You can't make this stuff up.

While the vote of Selectmen Jim Walsh and Sherri Steeneck is only "advisory," what was the point of it? Both selectmen agreed that maintaining the familiar "Fairfield Metro" was a good idea, with both saying they that would rather see the project -- including the commercial aspect-- completed and up and running. That's hard to disagree with.

I am bewildered. What a waste of time and public involvement this exercise has been. In my mind, the first selectman should have just stated emphatically that the DOT is responsible for the station's name, be done with it and move on to something more important. Does anyone else see that we have gone full circle for no real purpose at all?

Patricia A. Hines can be reached at hinessight@hotmail.com. She also can be followed at http://blog.ctnews.com/hines.