The Daily Press has this story ("Information request tops $16,000," 6/5/04) about a fellow in Suffolk who was told his FOIA request would cost him $16,000.
Ah, that sounds completely bogus. It is like the problem sometimes with written discovery, where one side apparently can't write out adequately what it wants and the other side apparently can't read adequately to produce what was requested. I suspect that quite a few of the 10,000 documents said to be within the scope of the FOIA request are not really within the scope of the FOIA request, or if so, the FOIA request could be easily be rewritten to get at whatever is the nub of the matter.
Nobody knows the actual cost of a FOIA response. I sometimes think the General Assembly should fix a fee schedule for FOIA responses and leave it at that, take the cost issue out of the hands of government officials who even with the best intentions can only make some wild guess. The other thing of course is that public documents ought to be available online anyway, to the maximum extent possible consistent with the constraints of cost, privacy, and security.