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PEPPERELL — Jeff Sauer may be the newly elected town clerk, but he’s putting together an old-fashioned election this summer in a bid to save Pepperell some money.

Central to that plan is a set of nearly antique voting machines that have been in storage since the town transitioned to the newer, computerized models.

Sauer said those newer machines are great because they can process several thousand ballots in the space of a few minutes. However, he was confident election workers could get by with the older models for the one-question ballot on June 21.

“An election usually costs about $6,000, but we can cut that in half by doing it this way,” he said,

The special election ballot asks if voters will approve a $350,000 debt exclusion to replace a 25-year-old fire truck. The ballot vote is required because a debt exclusion temporarily increases the town’s levy limit to cover borrowing costs. The measure was proposed by the Board of Selectmen this spring, as a way to replace the fire truck without making cuts elsewhere in the budget.

For his own part, Sauer said the idea of using the old machines came about after conducting a recount for the North Middlesex Regional School Committee race in early May. More than 1,700 ballots were cast in that contest, and he said it took election workers only a couple of hours to do the count.

Facing the unbudgeted expense of a special election, Sauer decided they could do a manual count once again, saying that would save the $1,200 programming cost for the newer machines and another $1,100 of printing costs for the special ballots.

Even so, Sauer thought it unlikely that the older machines would be pressed back into regular usage, saying it’s easy enough for election workers to tabulate this type of election, but it’s something else entirely to have them handle several thousands ballots with over a dozen items each.

“I think there’s a reason we have the election machines, but I think we can get away with it this time,” he said.

Demonstrating how the old wooden machines work, Sauer inserted a dummy ballot in the slot, and turned a crank on the side until a bell rang. That signifies that ballot went through, he explained, noting that the machine has an old fashioned ballot counter and an interior ink wheel, which marks ballots that have been used.

Looking inside the machine, an inspection sticker from 1962 was also visible.

“That’s the year I was born,” said Sauer. “These machines are older than I am.”

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